Sharing Children’s photos online is a natural thing to do if you are a parent. The PSNI Ballymena recently highlighted the rise in “Sharents” – parents who share children’s pictures online. Undoubtably if your child is involved in a organisation like GB, BB, Guides or a sports club you will have been asked if you give you permission for photographs of them to be taken.

Many parents are happy to give their permission, and lets face it sharing baby photos on Facebook or other social media sites is a great way to share you joy with friends and family who are far away but here are some key points for any “sharent” to consider from

  • Who’s looking? When did you last check your privacy settings? On most social networks the default is that any other service user can access your pictures, which may also appear in internet search results. Remember that anyone who can see a photo can also download or screenshot it, and could go on to share it.
  • What else are you sharing? You might be sharing more than what’s in the post. As default, many cameras, phones and apps tag posts and photos with ‘meta-data’ which can include location details and other identifying information. This is potentially risky for any child, but poses particular risks for vulnerable children such as those who have been fostered or adopted and could be sought online by members of their birth family.
  • Ownership Under the terms and conditions of most social networks, when you share a photo you licence the network to use and reproduce your image, and grant it the right to licence it for use by third parties. It could be used for commercial purposes, a point deliberately highlighted by the Danish company Koppie Koppie, which sold mugs featuring freely downloaded pictures of young children. Another online activity which has distressed parents and carers is the ‘Baby Role Play’game played by some Instagram users, who repost photographs of other people’s children and create fictional identities based on them. 
  • Their digital tattoo Every publically accessible image or comment featuring your child contributes to a public image which will follow them into the future. That apocalyptic nappy incident might make for a hilarious tweet now, but if it comes to light when they’re older, how could it affect the way they feel about themselves, or you, or how others see them? Could their online childhood become an issue if they are seeking a job, or a relationship, or even election to public office?

The internet is a great tool for us to collect up our memories and share pictures of our families with others, but be sure that you have checked your social media privacy settings – this website can help you if you are unsure. Being a “sharent” is a great thing but be sure to be cautious and protect your child online as well as off.