This is officially the first day of school for many children in Canada. It’s about a new season, a new haircut, a new grade. What it is not about is giving away too much information online.
I know I will be the voice that you most likely don’t want to hear, or perhaps even think about. You might be a mama who gets great joy sharing your child’s first day of school on Facebook for all to see. It’s an easy way to show your friends and family how much older your child is, and how great they look starting this new year. But unfortunately, it is also a filtered image for predators to find your child all too easily, online and offline.
Where can your pictures end up?
Think about it, Facebook, as all other forms of social media, is a platform owned by third parties. What does that mean? It means that anything you share online on Facebook is not yours. Your ownership of all the photos you share is given to that third party. While I don’t think that Facebook is evil and has the desire to go through your best pictures and share them out for their benefit, it doesn’t stop anyone else from doing so, since it is a public platform.
You may be thinking, well I only have friends on Facebook so no problem. However, for every like or comment on your posts from friends, others can see that as well. For example, if Aunt Betty out in France likes a picture of your child’s baseball practise, all of her ‘friends’ (not yours) can now see what she has liked or commented on and they might have another agenda. If you think this is far-fetched, I urge you to start reading up on the stats about child trafficking online (the numbers are insane). The reality is that the internet has a very dark side to it and many of the images have been pulled straight from parent’s Facebook pages of their children and altered. And for mamas that look for advice in Facebook private groups, please know that a group online, private or not, is still on a social platform. If you are in a parenting group of 100+ people all over the world, I guarantee you don’t know them all personally, and you don’t know all their friends personally. And those groups are not the place to share a picture of your child’s newly developed rash with their shirt off. While it seems like a safe and comforting place online with other parents, you truly are opening up your life (and your child’s life) for potential predators to see.
What do your pictures say about you?
With every picture you share and every like you click on other posts, social platforms are gathering information on you as a consumer. So, if you ever wandered why a big clothing company ad shows up on your feed with back-to-school sales around this time of year, it is mainly to do with what you have shown this platform about yourself and your family. I once tried an experiment where I did not like or comment on anything online for a month (I know!) and the results were incredibly interesting. If you want to know more about what you are filtering yourself into, try it.
If everyone else is doing it…
In this age of technology, many have succumbed to the fact that this is our life now and why not just go with the flow and embrace it? I will tell you my reason (if the above was no enough). When you share pictures of your underage child online, you are relinquishing your child’s right to begin their own digital footprint when they are ready to. Think back to when you were 5, or 8 or (help us) in your tween years hitting puberty. Those moments that are cherished by parents are special, but for the child it is downright embarrassing. I’m grateful social media didn’t exist when I was a kid! Now imagine beginning your life as a professional, after making it through all those difficult moments in education and making your way to a big job interview. Imagine if your potential new boss could find your elementary school photos plastered all over social media. Maybe it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing now as a parent, but consider what you are sharing and how.
What to share and what not to share
In the end, this is a personal choice, and one that only you as a parent can make. I have studied social media for over eight years, so I can only tell you what know and hope it gives you more information to make a more conscious decision.
Before I give you tips, I know many might be thinking of parents in my profession. Many of my colleagues feel differently than me and share their children’s pictures online regularly (again, personal choice). But one thing that my colleagues and I have on you, the regular social media user, is that we have been trained and taught how to use social media for our work. As well, we are constantly updating our knowledge. This also means we know how to set our privacy settings way up.
Back to school tips:
After reading this post, if you are still comfortable with sharing your child’s picture online, think of how you are sharing it. Are you sharing a simple picture of your child or are you giving away a lot more information?
- Make sure your location settings are off on your photos. (If you are not sure how to do this, look up. There is a how-to video for every smartphone)
- Do not include the school name or address in the photo (that can be in the uniform, logo, school background, etc.)
- Don’t mention your child’s teacher’s name
- Avoid your child’s full name and school grade
These are bits of information your true friends already know and are not needed on a social media platform. I often say this to people when I’m teaching online safety: you wouldn’t leave your front door open so don’t give away everything online for those to find your child.
One last thing; consider why you are sharing these pictures. I know it sounds silly, but if it’s not shared on Facebook, it doesn’t make it less important. This is coming from a mama that uses social media as her business! It’s OK to not share everything. As much as we are trying to explain to our kids that likes are not important, the same applies to us as parents. Celebrate your children for their new school year! Celebrate the close of a stupendous summer. Celebrate getting back to a routine. Celebrate it all in real life with those closest to you. Happy back-to-school, mamas. Here’s to a great and safe school year.