Parents Posting: The Effects of Social Media on Children

It’s official: I’ve reached that stage of life where it feels like everyone I know is having kids. Classmates I sat across from in high school algebra, friends I met on semesters abroad, and even neighbors I’ve known since I was a toddler are settling down and starting a family—and sharing every second of their childrens’ lives on social media.

Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing what my friends and their families are up to. One of the great benefits of social media is its ability to help us stay connected to loved ones, even when we live hundreds of miles apart. How else would I be able to watch my cousin’s son take his first steps? Posting photos of our families on social media is a convenient way to share memories with friends and family, build a strong community of support, and start an online scrapbook of nostalgic souvenirs.

Unfortunately, the Internet isn’t always the safest place for kids, and the effects of social media on children may do more harm than good. While posting photos of your kids is a fun way to laugh at lighthearted moments with loved ones, it could expose your child to identity theft, improper use of their image, and a mindset that appearances matter more than experiences.

Without further ado, let’s delve into the pros and cons of posting pictures of your kids on social media.

Posting Pictures Online: The Pros

When it comes to the effects of social media on children, we have good news and bad news. I always like to start with the good, so here are three benefits to posting pictures of your kids on social media.

You Can Share Memories with Friends and Family

Posting photos of your kids online helps faraway friends and family members get a peek into your family’s life, helping you build stronger connections and relationships in the process. Some social media sites, like Facebook and Instagram, even have features like live streams that let you share your child’s biggest moments in real time.

As someone living abroad myself, I’ve been able to experience this firsthand. Recently, my cousin and his wife had their first child. Because I live in another country, I haven’t been able to see my cousin or meet his son. Thanks to social media, however, I’m able to see pictures and videos of his little boy growing and smiling as I scroll through my feed—and that’s worth a lot.

Social Media Builds a Strong Community of Support

Let’s face it: being a parent isn’t always easy. Kids bring a lot of joy and laughter, but not every day is as sunny as we’d like. It’s sometimes difficult to know how to respond to a child’s hard emotions. Knowing how to help kids grow is easier with support—and that’s where social media comes in.

Some social media sites have become digital havens for parents in need of support. Online communities on websites like Facebook and Instagram bring parents together to share strategies, educate each other on all sorts of topics, and celebrate each other’s parenting successes. It’s true when they say that it takes a village to raise a child.

Preserve Memories with an Online Scrapbook

Like many things in our modern world, scrapbooks have gone digital. Gone are the days of gluing film photos onto colored pieces of paper and writing snappy captions in your best cursive. Now, photos and memories are stored online. Posting photos of your family on a private social media account (keyword: private) lets you keep all your favorite photos in one place, ensuring that you can go back and take a gander whenever you need a hint of nostalgia.

Posting Pictures Online: The Cons

Well, that was the good news. Now let’s talk about the bad—and unfortunately, the bad news may outweigh the good this time. Here are a few reasons that you shouldn’t post photos of your kids on social media.

You May Lose Ownership of Photos

When it comes to posting a photo online, the question of ownership is likely the last thing on your mind. After all, you took the photo so you must own the rights to it, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that.

Some social media sites claim licensing to any and all photos that are posted onto them, meaning they can copy them, sell them to advertisers, and use them however they see fit. This shady caveat is typically embedded deep in a website’s Terms and Conditions (which, if you’re like me, you probably didn’t read). For example, agreeing to Instagram’s terms grants the social media site a “non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use their content.”

Before you sign up for a social media site, let alone post photos of your children on them, do some research and ensure that the website in question can’t use your photos without your permission.

You Can’t Control How Others Use an Image

Social media sites aren’t the only ones that can misuse your child’s image. When you post a picture online, anyone who sees it is free to screenshot and use it for their own purposes—without you knowing that they took a screenshot in the first place. While some family members may take a screenshot to save the picture for themselves, other figures, like child predators, may have more nefarious purposes in mind.

Leah Plunkett, author of Sharenthood: Why We Should Think before We Talk about Our Kids Online, says that “a number of the images that are pornographic of children are pictures of real kids that are taken offline and photoshopped or otherwise retouched.”

Before you get nervous and delete your social media entirely, remember that run-ins with online child predators are exceptionally rare. Despite this, it’s always better to be prepared. Check out this article from the Troomi blog for some tips on how to protect your children from the dangers of online child predators.

You Run the Risk of Identity Theft

Since the inception of the Internet, it’s gotten easier and easier for thieves to commit identity theft. In fact, an estimated 15 million Americans had their identity stolen in 2021, according to McAfee. Experienced hackers and thieves need only a child’s name, birthday, and hometown, to hack into various databases and learn everything there is to know about your child and your family. When you share pictures of your children online, you may inadvertently share this personal information, resulting in a thief taking out false credit under your child’s name.

You Teach Your Kids to Value Appearance Over Experience

How many times have you scrolled through Instagram and seen a friend’s post exclaiming about the perfection of a recent family vacation? Their family is perfectly posed in every picture—everything looks like smiles and sunshine. If your feed is anything like mine, I bet it happens pretty often. Whenever I see these posts though, I have to ask myself: were you too busy posing for the camera to have any fun?

Taking the perfect family photo definitely makes your social media profile look nice, but this focus on appearance could take away from your kids’ full enjoyment of the present moment.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the world is a pretty amazing place. From building relationships with friends and family to exploring breathtaking vistas, life offers so much to experience, free from the trappings of social media. That’s why smartphones from Troomi Wireless eliminate these apps entirely.

It’s Easy to Post Pictures Online Safely

Despite the negative effects of social media on children, posting pictures is a convenient way to stay connected with faraway friends and family. If there’s a photo that you can’t help but share, make sure to ask your child for permission before you post. If your child asks that you refrain from sharing a specific photo, respect their decision. Then, follow these simple tips to safely post online:

  • Make sure that your account is set to private
  • Turn off geo-location
  • Turn off metadata (this records the time and date that the photo was taken)
  • Double check that you aren’t sharing sensitive information
  • Read the social media website’s Terms and Conditions

When it comes to sharing photos of your kids online, posting on social media may not be the safest method. While it helps your family stay connected and collects all your memories in one place, you also run the risk of exposing your child to image theft, identity theft, and a questionable relationship with appearance.

Next time you take a family picture that’s just begging to be shared, explore other ways than posting on social media! Send out an email, attach it to a text, or print out and mail a postcard with a handwritten message courtesy of your kiddo. Who knows—your child might get a letter back!