In a few days from now, your social media site of preference will be flooded with pictures of young children in cute Halloween costumes out for an evening of trick or treating. It’s safe to say, online landscapes have replaced the old hard-cover family album. Relatives, friends and even strangers are just a click away from viewing your child’s most significant moments.
While many parents often keep a watchful eye on their kids social media use, they might want to think about how much personal information they are sharing about their family.
"This is all so new. Our parents didn't deal with this," said Dr. Bahareh Keith, an assistant of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in Gainesville.
Before social media, parents might embarrass their kids by showing old photo albums to a few family members and friends. Now, the things parents disclose online -- the good and not so good -- leave a lasting "digital footprint," Keith explained.
The researchers cite an astonishing statistic in their review: Studies have shown that 92 percent of 2-year-olds in the United States have an online presence, and about one-third make their first appearance on social media within 24 hours of their birth.
Not only do parents share the “Hallmark” moments in their children’s lives, but some parents also share personal information about their child’s struggles with behavioral issues that can end up in the public domain. Social media outlets such as Facebook allow friends of “friends” to view your posts. You may or may not know who these people are. Public information about your child’s personal behavior, Keith points out, can have psychological repercussions for kids.
On a more sinister note, public information about your home life can help thieves and pedophiles link together a profile on your family - such as where your child attends school, when you are at work or on vacation, your child’s most vulnerable tendencies and a host of other things you’d rather strangers not know.
According to Keith, there has been little research on the issue, probably because it's so new. Her team did a review of the medical and legal literature on the subject, to come up with some guidelines for parents.
For now, she offered some advice on how to post wisely:
· Never share pictures of your child in "any state of undress."
· Be careful about posts that give your child's precise location.
· If you are going online for help with your child's behavioral issues, keep any information sharing anonymous.
Be sure to understand the privacy policies of the sites you post on. Simply limiting your Facebook posts to "friends" is not enough, Keith said. If someone else is tagged in a photo, for example, the friends of that person may see it.
Keith says the review is not to scare parents from sharing family photos or bragging about their children’s accomplishments online, but to use caution in what you share and when.
"We're not saying 'don't share,' " she said. "Just share wisely."
That's not only to keep kids safe, but to respect their privacy, according to Keith.
With older kids, she said, always ask if it's OK to post a photo or share a story.
With younger kids, try to think ahead. "Look forward," Keith said. "Ask yourself, at the age of 14, will my child be OK with this? If you're in doubt, don't post it."
It's natural for parents to focus on their kids when they're using social media, said Dr. David Lloyd-Hill, chair of the AAP's Council on Communications and Media.
"If you're a parent," he said, "the most important and exciting things in your life are probably centered on your kids."
But while those posts may be well meaning, Lloyd-Hill agreed that parents should think before they share and take some sensible precautions.
The bigger concern, he said, is children's privacy, and whether the images and information parents choose to share will hurt their child in some way -- now or years down the road.
"Yes, we need to be monitoring our kids' social media posts," Lloyd-Hill said. "But we also need to look at our own."
Keith is scheduled to present her findings at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in San Francisco this Friday. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Story source: Amy Norton, https://consumer.healthday.com/health-technology-information-18/misc-computer-health-news-150/what-not-to-post-online-about-your-kids-716055.html