A few years ago AVG used the term “Digital Birth” to describe the moment an online identity begins. The name grew out of a survey that determined that at least a quarter of today’s children have digital births before their physical births. This occurs when excited parents post news of their pregnancy on their preferred social networks. They follow up with ultrasound images, perhaps an announcement of the baby’s sex and so on. It’s easy to see, right from the beginning of life, that a person’s digital identity can be largely out of their hands.
More telling, parents’ posts are always at risk of becoming permanent record of their child’s formative years – a time of life by definition charged with innocent experimentation. The posting of content about our kids, whether just embarrassing or more meaningful is known as ‘Sharenting’, parents need to think carefully and consider is what they are doing going to have consequences in later years and are the over-sharenting? It’s important to remember that social media reviews are routine in employment, housing and other types of advance screening, your kids may not be so happy when photos of bizarre haircuts and awkward prom dates turn up.
In a larger and more sobering sense, parents should always be aware that certain types of sharenting could violate their children’s future privacy or imperil their long-term digital identities. Are images of your children getting scraped and used by strangers for other purposes? Do you really want to reveal your kids’ whereabouts via geo-tagging? What seemingly innocuous but ultra-private information do you unwittingly reveal with an image of your child puffing an asthma inhaler or scratching a swollen bee-sting?
To help us approach sharenting with care, I’ve put together the following five tips that should help us stay the course:
- Be aware of privacy settings when you post information about your child online – do you still own the content once you post it?
- Think about the consequences of what you’re posting about your child – will that picture still be funny when they are 12? Or 17? Or 35?
- Set up a Google Alert with your child’s name to make sure only information you want to be public about your child is available
- Register your child’s name as a domain name to ensure you own his or her Internet identity
- As your child gets older, take an interest in what s/he is doing online
For more detail on how to protect your kids identity you can download my free ebook ‘One Parent to Another’ here.
December 3, 2013