We’re exposed to it every time we scroll through social media: Hunter’s first book-week costume (the ‘Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar’); Linda posting about her eldest coming first in a swimming carnival; your best friend celebrating her baby’s four-month milestone with a photo of them propped up against a giant teddy bear.
“Today’s kids are growing up with not only their friends and siblings posting pictures of them, but sometimes years and years of photos that their parents posted before they had a say in the matter,” says Luis Corrons, ‘security evangelist’ with leading digital security provider Avast.
This phenomenon – known as ‘sharenting’ – sees parents sharing, or in many cases oversharing, images of their children across social media platforms.
An Avast survey around Australia’s ‘Sharenting’ habits from April this year found that 25 per cent of respondents have posted a photo of their child to their social media, who at the time was under the age of three, without blurring or covering up their face. A further 31 per cent had done the same for a child under the age of eighteen.
“But it’s not just parents that are sharenting,” says Luis. “Schools and sporting organisations are also sharing photos of kids on their social pages and websites.
As a result, it’s becoming more common for a kid to ask someone to take down a photo. According to the Avast Kids Online: Generation Lockdown survey, 48 percent of kids over the age of 12 have done so at some point.”
But asking someone — like a parent — not to take, or to take down, a photo can be daunting and even kind of scary. But as the Silly Season and the summer holidays quickly approach, it’s more important than ever to help you children understand their rights when it comes to (seemingly) happy snaps.
Ask your child before posting a photo
Photos used to be kept in albums at home, where only people who were physically in our homes had access to them. But, these days, those family photo albums are open to whomever has access to our profiles.
“Many parents are so keen to share the moment that often they forget that their children have feelings about those photos as well,” says Luis. “Their child may not be comfortable with their facial expression or hate what they’re wearing, which might seem silly to an adult, but to a child it can feel like life or death. And parents need to respect those feelings.”
In order to do that, parents should have a conversation about each photo before posting them.
“Ask something like, ‘I’m really proud of you in this photo, is it okay if I put this on the internet?’ and then let them choose their favorite,” says Luis. “Make sure that you ask them if they’re okay with you sharing it in a specific place and tell them who will see it there. And listen if they say they’d really just prefer you don’t post at all.”
Encourage your child to take control of their own identities
Make sure your children know that they can come to you if they’re not happy with a photo you’ve posted or someone else, like a family member or sporting organisation, has posted.
“Talk about how they have a right to control where their images are shown and that they’re always welcome to tell you when they feel uncomfortable with something you’ve posted and are nervous to talk about it,” says Luis. “That leaves the door open for them to advocate for themselves, not just with you but with other people.
Because, ultimately, children have a right to control their own identities online — even in the spots where their identity overlaps with their parents. And part of identity development is determining where their identities begin and their parents’ end.”
Keep that in mind the next time your kid says, “MUM! THAT’S SO EMBARRASSING!” about the adorable photo you posted of them in the sink when they were a baby. It’s their image; their identity; their right — no matter how cute those chubby thighs were.