Google; It’s how employers screen job candidates and single men and women find out about their dates prior to meeting them. Like it or not, we live in a digital era where everything and everyone can be googled. Yet despite the fact that everything that is posted, stays posted, the permanency of the digital world isn’t routinely considered when posting to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Every time you hit share, you leave a digital footprint. And, like concrete footprints, they are permanent. Although parents and teachers often provide lessons about online privacy and bullying, the future implications of publicly sharing through social media are often left out.
Interestingly, parents are typically responsible for making the first mark on their child’s digital footprint by posting sonograms and sharing baby photos and milestones. That’s right, parents are responsible for their fetuses having a digital footprint before even leaving the womb. But, is sharing photos of your children really that bad? There are two primary arguments that surround the topic of sharing information about children on social media; safety and respect.
Most parents who avoid posting photos of their children on social media do so for safety reasons. Whether it’s a fear of inadvertently including a geotag that shares a child’s location or the possibility of their photograph ending up in the wrong hands — these fears are unquestionably warranted.
According to an Australian study, over 50 percent of images on pedophile websites are taken from social media. For the most part, parents can safely share photos of their children with family and friends on social media as long as the appropriate privacy settings are used. Social media can be an amazing tool to connect with family and friends, and leaving a digital footprint isn’t something to be feared. However, it is important to mindfully participate in the digital world, rather than sharing personal details on a whim.
Although it can be tempting to share hilarious details of your child’s life, it’s important to respect them enough to consider the possible negative ramifications that could come from oversharing. Similarly, children mustn’t view social media as an open medium to share details of their lives. Children make mistakes, it’s how they learn. Unfortunately, the internet doesn’t allow these mistakes to be forgotten.
So, how can a digital footprint be managed in order to protect privacy and promote a positive identity while still fulfilling the desire to share life’s ups and downs with peers? The answer lies in responsible online engagement. It’s important for children and parents alike to take a second prior to posting on social media to ask themselves questions such as:
“Would I post this on a public bulletin board?”
“Would it be embarrassing for my parent/child to see this?”
“Am I sharing too much personal information?”
“Will I regret posting this later?”
What goes up, doesn’t always come down when it comes to the internet. As increasingly younger children are exposed to technology it’s more important than ever to educate them on the permanency of a post. Similarly, parents should consider their grown children’s opinions when posting baby photos online. It is entirely possible to create a positive digital footprint as long as parents and children responsibly engage in online media and utilize privacy settings to their fullest extent.
Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at www.kalimuir.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.