Privacy-wary parents are increasingly pausing before they post photos, names and other information about their wee ones on social media. Some are choosing a complete blackout, while others opt for nicknames and a few carefully selected snapshots.
Here are some social media tips for parents, relatives and friends.
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— ASK FIRST, POST LATER
If you don't know how a parent feels about having photos of their kids posted on Facebook, Instagram or elsewhere, ask before uploading a photo and before you tag the parents in a photo. This goes even for close relatives. Actually, it's not a bad idea to ask everyone you post a photo of if they're cool with it, especially if the snaps were taken at a party, swimming pool or any other less buttoned-up situation. It can prevent awkward conversations later.
— LIMIT AUDIENCES
Facebook's privacy settings are complex, but they also offer granular settings that let you pick who can see your updates. One way to do this: Create a "secret" group and add the members you want. The problem here is that anyone in the group can add new members to the group.
Another way to limit the audience of each post you share is to click on the right tab under your update, which may currently say "friends" or "public." Click on "custom" and choose which of your Facebook friends you want to share with and which ones you'd like to exclude. It's simpler on Instagram, where you can either lock your account or set it to public.
— TALK TO YOUR KIDS
Opinions on the age at which parents should start talking to their kids about Internet and social media use vary. Some parents start as soon as their child is old enough to use a smartphone, which can be as early as 2 or 3 years. Amy Heinz, who blogs about her kids, often talks to her 8-year-old about posts she writes about him, but says her younger children, who are 5 and 3, know about the blog but "don't have a concept" of what it means exactly. Caroline Knorr, parenting editor at the nonprofit Common Sense Media, waited until her son was 15 before posting a photo of him on Facebook — and asked his permission first.
— GO THE OLD-FASHIONED ROUTE
Some parents opt for e-mailing or texting photos to one person or to a small group rather than sharing them more widely on social media. Online storage services such as Google Drive and Dropbox also let you distribute photos privately, as do photo-sharing sites such as Flickr. Of course, there's always the old-fashioned snail mail method, if you can still find a place to print snapshots.
— DON'T EMBARRASS THEM
That photo of your little one with pea soup all over her face, or the one that shows her first time on the potty might be funny at the time, but think about what she may think of the photo if it's still online when she's a teen. Today's generation of parents did not grow up with the reality that their private moments growing up will be documented and often posted on the Internet for all eternity. Before posting a photo or anecdote, take a moment to imagine a conversation about it with your child 10 or 15 years from now.