Think Before You Post

I spend so much of my time speaking to young people about choosing appropriate photos for their social media accounts, however, I am often surprised to discover how often adults post inappropriate images.  I’m not talking about adult’s sexting, but simply oversharing!  Oversharing their children’s naked bums, tummies, bathing habits and tantrums.  A few times this week I have stumbled across parents posting cute, but very personal, private photos, which I am not sure children or teenagers would be comfortable sharing with the world if they had a choice.

(Mum Courtney Adamo was banned from Instagram after posting this photo of her daughter)

So today I am reposting an article from the Sydney Morning Herald dated June 27th 2014, which highlights the importance for parents to think before they post.  Please read this article parents, and be cautious about the photos and comments you post about your children.  They aren’t going to stay young forever!

From ultrasounds to first steps, from first days at school to graduations: frozen moments that were once confined to a bottom drawer or an occasionally opened photo album are now on permanent, public display thanks to our enthusiastic embrace of social media.

But as parents have taken advantage of the new technology to share their children’s lives instantly and easily with family and friends far away, how many are considering the consequences for their offspring’s dignity, privacy and safety? And for those of us who use social media as an ego boost: are you putting your need for an enviable online identity ahead of your child’s security?

The case of London-based blogger and mother-of-four Courtney Adamo has turned the spotlight on these questions. Adamo did not ignore her digital parenting responsibilities. She says she consciously did not post pictures of her children’s “private parts” and nothing that might embarrass them when they grew older on her Instagram account. But the fast-growing social media site thought that insufficient. Adamo posted a picture of her 18-month-old daughter pulling up her dress to examine her belly and a sign of toilet-training success: dry undies. It was no more explicit than the ads for disposable nappies run on Australian television, yet Instagram declared it indecent and shut down Adamo’s account.

It was later restored after supporters posted pictures of their babies showing their bellies to Instagram. One wrote on Adamo’s blog: “It is disheartening to think that we live in a world where people project their fears of an over-sexualised world onto a precious photo.”

But, sadly, perverts and predators can and do copy and store images of children that parents have posted to social media sites. Images parents consider innocent can still be attractive to sex offenders.

Parents need to consider whether the risk that their child’s picture, even an innocuous one, may be copied and shared by people they don’t know, for uses they cannot predict, is acceptable for their family.

The National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell has warned parents to be wary, citing the example of an Australian man who found a photo of his naked toddler in a bath posted to Facebook for family and friends was clicked and “liked” by 3000 strangers.

Parents must select appropriate privacy settings and proactively manage them; when Facebook changes or upgrades its features, for example, this can require readjustments to privacy settings. Be careful posting pictures that include identifying information such as school uniforms.

Parents should also consider their child’s right to privacy, now and in the future. How will an image that seems cute or funny now be viewed later on? Will it become material for bullies on and offline? Will it shape public perceptions of that child before they have had a chance to decide for themselves how the world will see them? Will it come back to haunt them if they become a public figure?

Stephen Balkam, from the Family Online Safety Institute, advocates giving older children the option of taking down pictures they don’t want in cyberspace. Of course, it is hard to be confident that anything is ever permanently erased from the digital world. It is far better if parents set a good example for the teens their children will become by thinking first before they post.

THANK YOU to everyone who has been passing these blog posts on, and for all your kind emails about their impact on your family.  If you have a topic you would like me to blog about email me at reception@youthexcel.com.au  and I will respond to it as soon as I can.

If you would like to book me to speak at your school or community event email reception@youthexcel.com.au.

MOST IMPORTANTLY if your teenager needs support from a psychologist, counsellor or mentor Youth Excel would love to help. You can contact me at reception@youthexcel.com.au.

What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell their Parents is available at www.michellemitchell.org for $24.95 plus postage.

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