Deciding How Much (and What) to Share about My Children Online

9.26.2016

Note: The following is my personal opinion regarding what I feel most comfortable with as it concerns sharing about my own children online. I realize everyone has different thoughts about this topic and many of those will differ from mine!

I came across an interesting article in USA Today recently about an 18-year-old in Australia who was suing her parents for posting baby pictures of her on Facebook without her consent. 

Now, obviously suing your own parents because they posted a few photos of you online is too ridiculous to even talk about (seriously, what is wrong with people?), but what I do want to talk about is that the article made an interesting point about what and how much we should or need to be sharing about our kids on social media. 

The article states that according to a UK-based site about parenting in the digital age, “The average parent shares almost 1,500 photos—mostly on Facebook—of a child before they turn five years old.” Regardless of whether or not that number is completely accurate, the point is the same: collectively as a society, we share a lot of photos of our kids on social media. 

As someone who is pretty active on multiple social media channels and writes a lifestyle blog, this is definitely something I’ve thought about a lot over the past year since R came along. I knew from the start that I didn’t want to share her full name in public, online spaces. Unfortunately, the world and the internet can be a scary place, and I was not comfortable with the idea of random strangers knowing my daughter’s full name.

Food for thought: anyone can go to Google image search, type in a name, and pull up any picture on the Internet of that person. The thought of anyone being able to do that with my child just doesn’t sit well with me. Even when I comment on other blogs, I don’t use her name. It at least makes me feel like I can maintain some privacy for her and for our family, and for an added bonus you can’t easily search for her online. 

When it comes to photos, I always want to be protective of R’s body and her privacy. For me personally, that means no pictures of her without clothes on, including pictures of her just in a diaper. That means no pictures of her in the bath, on the potty, etc. 

You have no doubt also noticed that on the blog and on my blog’s Facebook page, I put my blog name as a watermark across her face. I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I have heard too many stories about crazy people stealing photos and using them for strange purposes like pretending to have a fake family (yes, it happens!) or making a meme out of it (also happens) or whatever else. Sure, someone could probably Photoshop the watermark out, but at least I’m making it harder for them.

Before R was born, I considered only posting pictures of her on social media that showed her when her face wasn’t directly facing the camera or when her face wasn’t showing at all. Clearly that isn’t a rule I ever implemented (because, hello, she’s adorable), but now that she’s a bit older, I am rethinking how much I want to share moving forward. 

I loved writing monthly updates for R. I know they aren't going to be interesting for everyone else, but it’s fun for me to look back on them and remember different milestones and see pictures and things she was doing. I would not have been that detailed or diligent about recording things if I hadn’t for the blog! But as she gets older, I do realize that these moments are hers to have and hers to share (or not share) as she wants. 

I really enjoy reading the baby book that my mom kept for me, but I don’t know... would I appreciate having my baby book online for anyone to read? I’m just not sure, and since R can’t answer that question yet, I want to be careful about how much I post. 

Moving forward, here’s what I feel the most comfortable with as it concerns sharing about R on social media:

-No naked/diaper pictures, pictures in the bath, etc. 
-I will share pictures, but I will continue to watermark her face, and I probably won’t be posting as many straight-on face pictures of her in general where she is by herself. 
-I will be careful of what I write about her life in terms of potentially embarrassing or unflattering stories.
-I will most of all just be aware of what I share on social media, recognizing that R is her own person who can’t yet make the decision of whether or not she wants her life posted on the internet, and I want to remain respectful of that.

I know this is a personal issue and is different for everyone, so I’m interested to know: What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have any “rules” for posting about your kids online?

p.s. You might find this article from the New York Times interesting while we're on the subject.

31 comments:

  1. I read that article too! I think that for now, I share a lot in terms of stories (especially funny/embarrassing ones) because he's a baby and has no control over the decisions he's making. But as he gets older, I will definitely reevaluate. I can remember being very very young and hearing my parents tell their friends an embarrassing story about me and it made me sob with embarrassment. I think a lot of times we don't realize how much kids pick up on at such a young age. Jack may not be on the internet reading the blog as a young child, but if it's something I wouldn't want him to hear me talking about, it probably doesn't belong on the internet.

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  2. I totally agree with the naked/diaper pictures. I feel the exact same way. I've been chewing on these things a lot lately too, and it's case by case issue for me on what I want to share. I'm trying to step back more and more. But it's hard. Like the vomit disaster that was my last post. I NEVER want her to be embarrassed by what I write, but sometimes the story is so insane I want to write it out so I never forget it. I don't know. I struggle with this everyday. I'm always asking myself what would've embarrassed me if my mom told everyone about it.

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  3. I also agree with the naked pictures. I posted a few bathtub pictures when he was a newborn (but nothing below the waist!), and I try to be extremely vigilant about what I post about him. I figure when he gets old enough to tell me to stop, and that he doesn't like it, I will. Such a great post and topic!

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  4. I've definitely taken some things down in the past that felt like maybe shared too much personal information. I also like to try and stick to the rule about not sharing things that will embarrass my kid in the future.

    I remember reading a blog one time where someone shared a lot about a surgery her young son needed on his nethers and wondering how that kid would feel later on about it.

    I always try to remember, too, that is easy to put things online but almost impossible to get them off.

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  5. This is great! I am so torn because I tend to use my blog as a "scrapbook" for our family, and I want to document everything along the way...but then again, I want to do everything in my power to protect my babe. There are times when I consider just making my blog private...so much to think about!

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  6. I don't have kids, but I have thought about this. The internet is such a HUGE part of our lives now and I think this is something you have to consciously think about! I try to restrict what I say about K, especially since he owns a business. I use his name, but I typically just type "K" for the sake of convenience and privacy. I also check with others before I post things about them- like my brother and sister-in-law's wedding. I hate how public the internet is sometimes, but other times I'm glad because it allows me to connect with bloggers like you!

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  7. I really appreciate you sharing this because it's something I've thought a lot about and I don't think you really know how you're going to handle it until you're in it. Our parents didn't have social media so everyone is just sort of figuring it out as they go along. Just by being mindful, I think you will save R a lot of embarrassment and grief one day. I do think that she will appreciate being able to look back on these posts and see how much fun you had with her and how much you love her. You can blog about your children while also respecting their privacy and I think you're doing a great job of that.

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  8. I haven't read the article (but I will!) I'm more cautious about my children's names, and now that my son is a little older, I'm more cautious about stories I share. (Case in point, my husband posted to Facebook a photo of our son in full meltdown mode. I asked him to remove it because I don't ever want our boy to come across it. It could be embarrassing.) As our kids enter school - and even now with preschool - I will be even more careful about what I post even on Facebook when I know only friends and family can see it. Oh, and you won't see naked baby pics on my site. If my child is wearing a gDiaper, you may see that because the diaper covers are incredibly cute. ;)

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  9. I love reading your take on this! I also am in the "no naked pictures" camp. Since Peter is a boy and wears ginormous cloth diapers, I don't really have an issue with pictures of him in diapers on social media (and let's be honest, he rarely wears clothes while at home), but I've never understood when people post total naked photos of their babies on the internet. Nope. I think about the stories, too. I like communicating with people via social media (blogs and my personal facebook) about my life as a mom, but I try to keep things vague-er where Peter is concerned, and not spill out tons of detailed stories about his life that may embarrass him later on. It is hard to remember all of the cute stories that happen (I tried typing some up one time on my computer, but I almost never make the time to do that), so I'm just trying to live in the moment and enjoy it all. I've also thought of this issue a little bit in terms of the importance of having some family privacy. "Back in the day," when a friend would really get to know a family (or when the kids in the family began to grow), they would pull out the old family photo albums that were complete with embarrassing photos or stories. When my husband and I were dating, the day that his mom pulled out the family photo albums, I really had a sense of "Wow, they're really taking me in as a trusted friend" and it was really neat! But if we post any and every photo and story out there on the internet for complete strangers to find, then there's less of a sense of family intimacy, I think.

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  10. This post is perfect for me right now as I am deciding what I want to share about my baby when she gets here. I have not revealed her name to anyone except family and close friends for now. I might share her first and middle name in one post after she arrives and then start calling her a nickname on the blog. I haven't decided 100% yet. I will not be sharing any naked photos or embarrassing photos of her. And I will be careful of what stories and aspects of her life I share. It is different for everyone, but you can never be too careful these days you are so right!

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  11. I don't have kids yet, but I want children one day and have thought about this before. I think your guidelines are pretty solid and I think R will appreciate that when she gets older. I appreciate it when parents are thoughtful about this.

    This is part of why I get annoyed when people make their child's picture their profile picture. In my opinion, that's just too public and it's scary to me that anyone can just see (and steal) a child's picture. And it happens. Many of my friends have had trouble with people stealing their profile pictures and creating fake accounts, so who's to say they won't steal your baby's picture for something?? I just can't.

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    1. I totally get annoyed when people make their profile picture just one of their kid, although I have to admit I've thought about it before with R. Resisted the urge, I'm proud to say :) ha!

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  12. I draw a hard and fast line here. I only post pictures of myself on my accounts, and I ask that no one else post identifiable pictures of me on their pages, including my mother. (She does, however, post some "throwback" pictures from when I was really young and that doesn't bother me.) My husband and I have been together for over seven years and neither of us have ever appeared on the other person's Facebook page. I'm sure we'll apply the same guidelines to any kids that come along.

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    1. Really interesting! Thanks for sharing. Sometimes I lean more on that side of things about not sharing any pictures at all. The internet is forever and it's big and anyone could be looking. I have a friend similar to you who has asked us not to post pictures online of him. He doesn't even have Facebook himself. Prefers to stay off the grid as much as he can.

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  13. Even though I don't have kids, this was a great read. I see people overshare and then apologize, which seems like too little too late.
    I remember when another blogger announced that she was adopting but didn't mention it again until the baby was in her arms because she said it wasn't her story to tell. It was the child's. I loved that.
    I won't be able to have kids of my own, but when my husband and I have foster children (like we intend to), we will have laws to prevent us from naming them, posting photos, etc. I think that in part, it will be sad not to share our happy moments even on Facebook with family and friends, but it will be most important to keep them safe. I read one foster mother write that if everyone (her foster and biological children) weren't safe, then she wasn't doing her job. Safety was always the goal. So, whatever you think fits safety should work for you!
    (That 18 year old suing over baby pictures is insane. She will regret doing that to her relationship with her parents later!)

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    1. I love that you want to be foster parents! Jordan and I have been talking about that recently as well. There are so many kids out there who need love and a family! I think that's awesome. I agree that keeping our kids safe should be #1 even if sharing pictures of them is super fun :)

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  14. Right now, I have zero plans to share my (future) kid's photos or even that many stories about him/her on my blog or other public sites -- even Facebook, because even though my privacy settings are pretty high, there's nothing stopping a friend sharing the photo and spreading it around. (I'm honestly most concerned about getting family members to respect our wishes and not share a ton of photos on their own accounts.) That may change once I actually have a kid, of course.

    I've been thinking about setting up a private Instagram account or even a Facebook group to share photos with family and friends -- I told my husband I wouldn't be comfortable putting a ton of photos of our kids all over social media, and he wanted to know how we'd share photos and updates with long-distance family. I also like that we'd have control over who can and can't see the photos, and I'd know they've all "opted in" to it, so we wouldn't be bugging them with constant updates.

    Anyway, thank you for thinking about this and talking about it -- I don't really care what choices other people make, but I think it's important to think and make them consciously, and I feel like (from a few Facebook updates from parents) that many don't really think it through beforehand.

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    1. I totally agree. I don't think people think through their pictures all the time. I do like sharing because I know my family and friends like to see pictures of her, but I have to remember that the internet is a big place and ANYONE could be looking! I like the idea of a Facebook group or something. That's a great idea!

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  15. You bring up such good points! I have noticed your watermark across R's face and I think that's so smart - preventing both memes and the creepy baby role play thing where they pretend it's their kid. It made me think of this article:
    http://www.somethingdevine.com/2015/04/how-i-protect-my-family-on-instagram.html

    For my blog, we've decided to use names and pictures for me and my husband only. We don't use the kids' names or pictures showing their faces - since we don't know what level of privacy they'd prefer later on, we want to err on the side of caution.

    Another important point isn't just their pictures, but the things we share about them. I read someone's blog who was describing finding out that her child was viewing pornography on their phone, and on the same blog she was using the child's name and picture. How mortifying for that child if anyone they knew came across it! I will never post anything embarrassing or anything that I wouldn't want one of my kids to read. Having 6 kids really helps preserve their anonymity because if I have a funny story I can just say "there was a pants-wetting incident" and not single anyone out. After all, you can guess who peed their pants but you only have a 16% chance of getting it right.

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  16. I am absolutely with you on the no naked pictures, no diaper pictures and no potty/tub pictures. There are CREEPS out there, and especially for a little girl, I wouldn't want photos of her with no shirt on. I absolutely agree with your stance on it. I have no children yet, but I have a feeling I'll be somewhat similar to this. Great post!

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  17. I think there are two issues with posting my kid's photos online. First, I am worried about his safety. So for that, I pay close attention to who's following me and what I post. I do this for myself too- I keep things intentionally vague on where I live. Second of all, I try not to share anything that could be embarrassing down the line and/or TMI. That's why my monthly baby updates are written from my perspective vs Buel's. We shall see down the line how much information I share, as I'm debating in general what direction to take my blog.

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  18. This topic has been on my mind A LOT lately! A few months ago I started watermarking pictures for the blog as well... and sometimes I find myself getting lazy to do it. Then I started thinking about not using their names on the blog (and some day finding time to go back through old posts and removing their full names) because it creeped me out when my Mom's friend told me she googled my kids name and it came up with my blog. Like what??! Gah! The world certainly is a scary place and I wish I knew where to draw the line as to what to share about my children as well!

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  19. oh i love this. i pretty much agree, i think. obviously it's hard for me to say because i don't have kids, but i don't plan on sharing their names or anything like that. i might share baby pictures because babies are cute, and babies rarely look like the adults they turn into.. like, a future boss *could* google my kid's name and see a picture of a naked baby and it be any baby, you know? but a naked 10 year old? or something embarrassing they did as a teenager? that seems worse than a funny baby story or picture, to me anyway. i honestly don't understand people who post pictures of their naked babies anywhere, blog or facebook. i don't share my full name on my blog, personal preference. i'm glad KC's name is KC so I don't have to think up a funny nickname or just call him K. I have mentioned what it stands for in a blog post about him once, but since he's been called that since birth, i sometimes forget that is even his name.

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  20. This is a really interesting topic. It's probably so hard to navigate these waters because we're the first generation to really have to think about it! I think you're going a great job. I agree with the no diapers/toilet/tub pics. I don't think there's any reason that anyone else needs to see those sort of pictures. But to each their own!

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  21. I think about this a lot, but haven't decided what to do. I definitely agree about embarrassing pictures, but I do post a ton of up close pictures of Aiden right now that I don't watermark (mainly because it takes a ton of time and I don't blog as regularly as I used to, lame I know). Definitely something I need to think more about as he gets older and has more opinions. Thanks for sharing!

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  22. I think keeping full names off the internet is a very good idea--just with my and my family's lifestyle, that's something I've always been vigilant about--both Rachel and Angel are very common names, and so is our last name (I know it sounds a bit weird to say Angel is a common name, but really, it is, just not in English, haha!), and I periodically search our full names on the internet and a ton of pictures of strangers and profiles and articles about complete strangers come up, which makes me very glad! There's apparently a pro athlete or two with Angel's exact name. My maiden name was quite rare and if I search that I do get a couple pictures of me or relatives and articles about scholarships, awards, etc--but I'm glad that my 'new' name is much more invisible.
    With either kids or adults, I tend to err on the side of no specific, identifying info--I never post about birthdays on the actual day or make it clear what the day is, I wouldn't post birth weight or any numbers, or middle names. To me, faces and first names are kind of public info anyways--if you go out in the big city where we live, hundreds of people will see my face everyday, and I stick out like a sore thumb, so I'm very noticeable--because of being a foreigner, and because of who my parents are, it's very common that people know me/recognize me and I have no idea who they are, and that's without the help of the internet! Stories I'm a lot more okay with--but I personally don't like gross or extremely embarrassing stories anyway, so I doubt I would ever want to post them about any future kids. haha!

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  23. Naked baby pictures are just weird. I think they are only cute if they are your family. And never on the web. Ew!

    I never thought about having to filter what you share about kids on-line but I guess it is a good thing to think about. I think in what people share about kids if it is filtered with a heart of love it would remove lots of embarrassing things parents say about their children. My Dad would sometimes share stories about us kids from the pulpit and us kids were mortified. We never liked that and he didn't do it often. Now I don't care too much.

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  24. Interesting. I feel like when in doubt, don't share. I totally agree about naked/diaper clad/tub/potty pictures. Not something I'll share. Since I only dabble in social media and use the high privacy approach when possible, I'm pretty comfortable with my approach thus far. But always subject to change!

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  25. I don't have kids but this is something I've thought about a lot -- I've always thought about children's rights in these new public spaces and how they don't get a say at all.

    I think your philosophy is great. I think it's just a balance. As the kid grows and develops and gets older, it's one of those things where you just have to feel it out.

    I feel like with personal blogs, it's probably the same discretion we use (maybe a bit more) with sharing about our friends and our loved ones. Maybe it's just important that we keep ourselves and our stories central and while our kids and spouses and friends can play a role and show up, they aren't the focus.

    But anyway, this is a fascinating topic -- especially because people growing up completely online (and not necessarily by choice) is so new!

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  26. The safety side of this has long been on my mind as far as sharing photos and names of children I know (and I always check with their parents before posting anything on my blog/social media). But the whole personal privacy thing/how kids will feel about it in the future is a newer idea to me. I remember the first time someone mentioned it to me a couple of years ago I thought it was silly to be concerned about (I mean, fine for other people, but that we wouldn't worry about it for our future kids). Now... I'm not so sure. I have no idea what we'll do when we have kiddos or how much we'll share about them on the internet. Honestly, I'm so thankful that Facebook wasn't around for my angsty teenage years because there would be permanent records on the internet of my own personal drama. Which makes me want to keep my kids off line (both in what I post about them online AND keeping them from having their own accounts) until they are much older. But who knows what we'll do. I think this is a good conversation to have and definitely something to be mindful of. I like what you've decided with R!

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