Today many children are ‘growing up’ online, with a digital record of their lives shared from day one. As parents, it's lovely to share your kids’ cutest moments and milestones with friends and family, but it’s also vital to consider the implications for our kids, both now and in future.
With technology’s advancing so quickly, it’s a tricky terrain, so Kinderling Conversation spoke to eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant and Amanda Third, Principal Research Fellow in Digital Social and Cultural Research at Western Sydney University.
Listen to Julie and Amanda on Kinderling Conversation:
“In recent years we have seen this idea about the child having rights and the need as parents to look after their digital footprint,” Amanda says. “I don’t think we’re at the point where we as parents find those decisions easy.”
To help with this ‘sharenting’ dilemma, Amanda and Julie offered their expert tips for parents posting online.
Talk to your kids before you post
The reality is that most of us are living online to a certain degree now.
“What I do think is important is that we’re modelling the right behaviours, and we’re talking to our kids before we share their images,” says Julie.
“Talk [to them] about respect and permission, and let them know that you’re engaged in their online lives and you’re planning to be engaged on an ongoing basis.”
Depending on the age, the conversation will be different, but it’s about having two-way, consistent communication and being a part of their digital world as early as possible. As Julie notes, “Ultimately we’re looking after the welfare of our kids.”
“Parents are not always going to get these things right - it’s a learning curve as we all know,” adds Amanda. “Prompt these conversations to make it a normal part of everyday family life so that we’re engaging our kids, we’re helping them understand what it means to be online and giving them ways of talking about it and responding to it.”
Respect your child’s decision to post or not to post
As parents, we need to learn to respect our child’s decisions. They will say no at some point and exercise this right, which might mean that beautiful pic at the beach never gets published but that’s okay.
Amanda says “it’s very important to respect their decision, it’s about modelling the kind of behaviour that you’d like to see them to use with others beyond this.”
Of course your child can’t provide legal consent or permission for this sort of thing, but that is not the point, says Amanda. Honouring them means that your child will be better of in terms of being prepared as a citizen in the digital world.
Carefully consider what you’re posting
When posting online, e-safety and physical safety both have to be considered. Julie says that education and prevention are really important, so talk about no-go zones as a family. She suggests any personally identifiable information like full name and address should be protected, with uniforms and schools sometimes a part of this so a child’s whereabouts is never detectable.
As for looking ahead at how it might affect your child’s future, Amanda says it’s quite hard to know. Parents often question if a post will affect their job prospects in 15 years, but no one rally knows these answers. Since it’s grey and murky with ever changing and transforming cultural norms and values, we need to do our homework and take precautions.
“[Posting] a nude photo of a child is probably not a good choice, just because you don’t know how it’s going to be read in the future,” she says.
Look into safer ways to share
Both Amanda and Julie recommend increasing your privacy settings on social media and even limiting the ‘friends’ who can see your children’s photos. This lets your close circle of friends and family see them, but not your more distant friends or work colleagues.
“Sharing images is an important part of family life today and so I think we want to encourage families share, but to do their homework, take precautions,” she says. “Always be thinking, ‘what kind of footprint does this leave for my child, and what decisions can I make to ensure they’re not compromised in the future?’”
Julie notes that everyone has different ideas about privacy: some are very protective, some agnostic, and then there is a lot of over-sharing too. “To me, it’s about basic respect and courtesy.”
She recommends limiting who sees your kid pics by utilising granular privacy setting on social media networks to narrow it down to people you know and trust.
“We want to help parents exercise good cyber judgement, teach the same to their kids. There are no hard and fast rules, it’s about thinking before you post.”
For more information on the Children’s eSafety Commissioner’s campaign to #talkb4sharing check out this article on their website.
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