My husband is an amateur photographer, and a couple of weeks ago we did our own maternity photo shoot. I asked him this morning if he could do his editing magic (which he is just starting to learn really), so I could post the images on social media.
He asked me where I was putting them, and I said on my personal Facebook account, and possibly this site. He went a bit shy and said he didn’t know if he wanted his face on this site. I said that was completely fair enough – he should have control of where images of himself are located online.
Then that got me thinking about our baby, who is due in just under 3 weeks.
This generation coming through is the first to truly have no immediate control over their own digital footprints. They are born into a world that is already in the grips of the online, and they aren’t old enough to even know what that is, let alone what the consequences could be.
Growing up ourselves, my husband and I were pre-teens when the internet became a thing, and teens when social media kicked off. We were old enough to have our own thoughts and opinions about our digital footprints, even though we didn’t know they existed back then.
For those a little confused, a digital footprint is your online presence – it includes everything you do online, not just things you post on social media. Data about the websites you visit, online services you use, emails you send – all of that is part of your digital footprint. And while we, as adults, have somewhat control over that, our babies don’t.
Schools are trying to teach safe internet practices to students, but I’m not entirely sure how young that starts. Earlier and earlier I imagine these days, as users of the internet start out younger and younger (just look at all the child stars with their own YouTube channels).
But now we have come to a situation where children are having digital footprints built for them, and they’re not even old enough to purposefully click a mouse button. Back in 2010, 82% of children under the age of 2 had an online presence – I imagine it would be higher now.
People are setting up social media accounts, email accounts, signing their children up to all sorts of online services – sometimes even before they are born.
Family and friends share images and stories on their own accounts.
All of this is done with the best intentions in mind – don’t get me wrong! We all love seeing social media posts about so-and-so’s kid, what their families are getting up to, all those funny little life stories. We’re making and recording memories in a digital world, and that has to include our children.
But how much is too much? Where should we draw the line?
I personally know some parents who have decided to actively NOT post anything about their children online, in any format, and kindly asked their friends and family to do the same. They want their children to have complete control over their digital footprints.
Some lock down their social media as tight as possible, even create completely private invite-only accounts to share their children’s growing up.
Others are open and free with their images and stories, posting across multiple social media platforms that may or may not be locked up tight.
So who is right? Which option is best?
I personally believe it’s a personal choice, but one that needs to be agreed upon by those who are raising the child in question. It’s no good if I turned around and said I want to plaster my child all over the internet, get Instagram famous because of him, set him up for life with a YouTube channel and whatnot, but my husband saying he wants no images of him online anywhere. (This isn’t the case with us, just an example)
You need to work out a compromise you are happy with, and talk about it with your family and friends. Again, no good you keeping them offline if the extended family always put up pictures when they visit.
Work out what is best for you and your family, what you are comfortable with, and keep the conversations open. You may find you change your mind later down the line, which is perfectly fine. But keep conversations open, and remind friends and family of your decisions if need be. Just remember – once it’s online, you can’t ever completely get rid of it.
I read this article today, and you may find it interesting as well. The key thing that stood out for me was this quote:
“Don’t share something online that you wouldn’t be okay sharing publicly.”
What are your opinions on this matter? Do you post images or other information of your children online? Where do you personally draw the line?