Social media use is a big part of most people’s lives in one way or another. This includes children and teenagers. Much has been discussed about teaching children and teenagers how to use social media safely, but there are things that parents and other adults need to keep in mind for their use of social media in order to protect children as well.
Common sense is the most important starting place for protecting children on social media. While certain privacy laws exist to protect children against posts or usage of social media material by third parties, these laws generally do not have much effect on protecting children from what their parents or guardians may share. Parents and adults often enjoy posting about their children on social media as a way to keep friends and families informed and share exciting news or happy memories. Parents can also connect with other parents to get advice or discuss issues related to their children’s education, activities, health and more. However, even the most well-intentioned parents and adults can benefit from taking the time to learn more about the potential risks of some of their online activity related to children and follow guidelines to ensure additional privacy measures are in place to protect the children who are subjects of these online posts.
Adults can, and should, be familiar with privacy policies of any sites they post to, including where those sites might share posts, pictures or data. Setting one’s own personal privacy to high levels, such that only known family members and friends can view posts and photos, also helps protect against inappropriate or risky sharing. Parents or guardians can set up notifications to social media sites and alerts to let them know if their child’s name appears in a Google search result, so that they can monitor and take necessary action if a child’s information is shared publicly or improperly. Adults should be cautious about “tagging” or posting details about a child’s specific location at any time and should limit the amount of personal identification information about their child that is made available on the internet. Posts on websites about specific topics, such as medical conditions or behavioral issues, might be better done anonymously, to avoid unwanted personal identification or embarrassment of the child or family. Before posting anything about a child, adults should think about the effect it may have on the child, not only in the immediate future, but in later years as well. Posts and photos that could embarrass a pre-teen or teenager if found later on should probably be reserved for family sharing only. If the child is old enough to weigh in on whether or not they are comfortable with the post, that conversation can be had, and used as a teaching moment for internet use and privacy with the child.
Social media and internet posting can be both good and bad, but when it comes to children, it is everyone’s responsibility to take additional precautions to ensure the safety and privacy of the child.