Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sharing Our Babies and Lives Online: It's Best to Think Before You Click

I took this picture of my baby girl, Charlotte, with my phone while we were walking through the mall last weekend. About 30 seconds later, thanks to my smartphone and the mall’s free Wi-Fi, I had uploaded it to my Facebook page and shared it with all my friends and family. When I got home that afternoon, I started thinking about how much has changed since I was a child. Back then, (oh no…am I old enough to say ‘back then’?) the process of sharing photos with grandma in another city was much more complicated. You had to have film in the camera, finish the whole roll before taking it to a store to get developed, wait for the prints to be made and hope they turned out well.
As a mom with 2 young children, I am so grateful that technology lets me share so much with my friends and family who we don’t get to see often. Email, social networking sites, photo- and video-sharing sites, and blogs have allowed me to stay close to friends who I haven’t seen in person in years. Sometimes, though, I worry about how much information I am putting onto the internet and what happens to that information once I hit enter. The idea of others (who I don't know) having access to information about my kids is a little scary, so I try to be as careful as possible. Here are a few tips that have made me more comfortable about how and what I share online:

·         Know the privacy policies. I have to admit that following this advice hasn’t always been easy for me. Privacy policies seem to be constantly changing and the idea of reading the fine print isn’t something most people have time to do. Even though it can be frustrating, knowing what businesses and providers will be doing with your personal information is important.
·         Check your settings. The social networking and blogging sites have various privacy settings that allow you to limit who can see what you post.  By being familiar with the available settings, you can make an informed decision about how much and with whom you share your personal information.
·         Think before you post. Even when you are aware of the privacy policies and have gone through and chosen your ideal settings, it’s important to remember that posting things on the internet isn’t the same as having a conversation or sharing a photo album with a friend. Once it is posted, you lose a lot of control over who sees it. For example, even when your settings specify that only people you know can view your information, you have no control over what those people do with what is shared. For example, on Facebook, even when your pictures are set to be shared only with your friends, they can be downloaded and re-shared without your knowledge. The same goes for written information, like a status, email, or blog post.
·         Information can be taken out of context. Kids do crazy things. For example, let’s say your 2 year old crawls into the dryer and your 4 year old runs to tell you. Of course, you hurry to find out what is going on and when you see that he’s ok, you snap a picture to document how silly it is. When you post the picture of the 2 year old in the dryer with the 4 year old laughing in the background, most people will think it’s funny and many other parents will relate to how chaotic your life can be. Unfortunately, others may have a different reaction and may interpret it as bullying. While you can’t control what others think, it is important to consider how your words or pictures come across to others.

I hope you find these tips useful and we'd love to hear from you about your online sharing experiences! Send us a comment!


  1. Excellent tips. I think 'Know the privacy policies' and 'Out of context' are the hardest ones to implement. Especially, my blood runs cold when thinking about the thousands of pages of fine print I've never read.

  2. I think most people overreact to concerns about photos of their children being available for others to see, pedophiles are not lurking around every corner and kidnappings by strangers are very rare. But you have to really accept that if you choose to put a picture on the Internet anywhere it will likely always be there and anyone could see it.

    My best advice though is to turn "location settings" off so you do not geotag your photos location. That way everyone does not automatically have the gps location of your home, your child's school, playground, etc.