Should Parents Post Pictures of Their Kids on Facebook?

Experts say making your child a social media star can create problems in adolescence.

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Facebook Holds Its Fourth f8 Developer Conference
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shows a photo of himself as a baby as he delivers a keynote address during the Facebook f8 conference on September 22, 2011 in San Francisco, California

This week marked another dust-up in the debate about oversharenting—that is, parents sharing too much information about their kids online.

At Slate, Amy Webb argued parents are “creating a generation of kids born into digital sin.” She and her husband post nothing—no photos, no videos—about their daughter online to protect her anonymity. Andrew Leonard at Salon fired back, “We are strengthening the ties that bind a larger community of family and friends together” by sharing our kids’ lives with a select few on social media.

Wherever you stand, most parents are doing it. According to a recent study done by print site Posterista, 94 percent of parents in the United Kingdom post pictures of their kids online. And 64 percent of parents upload images of their children to social media outlets at least three times a week.

Plus, even if you strike for total anonymity for your child like Webb does, it’s still difficult to succeed. In the comments section of Webb’s post, someone boasted to have tracked down the name, photo and saved website domain of her child. So much for anonymity.

Given that our kids are necessarily exposed, what happens in 10 or 15 years when a child inherits a Facebook page already full of embarrassing baby photos?

(MORE: Two-Faced Facebook: We Like It, but It Doesn’t Make Us Happy)

“It may be that we have to negotiate with our kids a little bit more about what’s acceptable or not or give them the ability to take down photographs they don’t want there,” says Stephen Balkman, who leads the Family Online Safety Institute.

He sees the new phenomenon as an opportunity to teach kids about online reputation. “When your kids get to be 11 or 12, sit down and Google their name with them. Go through their Timeline. See if they want what’s up there, and if they don’t, delete it,” he says. “But by looking at all this they’ll better grasp the benefits and consequences of sharing information.”

But that conversation is not always easy. “As parents are starting at a very young age posting anything and everything on Facebook, then it will be hard as parents to say to your child as a teenager, ‘That’s not appropriate to post,’ when parents have been posting information about them for their entire lives,” says Dr. Mary Beth DeWitt, director of psychology at Dayton Children’s Hospital.

And what may be even more problematic are the psychological implications of growing up without anonymity. There was plenty of admonishing following Miley Cyrus’s shenanigans at the Video Music Awards about the ill effects of constant exposure and living in the spotlight from a young age. Well in a way, that’s what is happening to this generation of kids, albeit on a smaller scale. From before birth—when moms are posting pictures of their sonograms on Instagram—parents expose their children’s information to family, friends, acquaintances and total strangers online. And it has yet to be seen how today’s toddlers will deal with their inherited online identities as teenagers.

“We’re still exploring this since it’s so new. Hopefully a parent posting on Facebook about their child won’t make a child feel like that defined who they are, but it’s a concern,” says Dewitt.

“I would tell parents to look back and think how they would feel if their parents posted about them online for everyone to see and use that as the guideline for what’s appropriate and what isn’t.”

MORE: Why Facebook Makes You Feel Bad About Yourself

72 comments
garmian
garmian

Parents should not post any pictures of their kids online. Once it's a photo is online is there forever. Parents should ask the kids if it is OK for their pictures to be posted. Besides, parents should post their own pictures and leave their kids out of it unless the kid wants his/her pictures posted online.

wunruh80
wunruh80

News flash for parents.  Most people couldn't care less about your little brats!!!

Joanacraft7
Joanacraft7

@TIME posting them give kidnappers all the needed info to take them away

ghormax
ghormax

Why are baby photos embarrassing? They might even come handy when trying to get a date ;)

sugartotmom
sugartotmom

@TIME Most parents are loud and proud and want to show off their kids to the world, but I do think some parents over share. I don't think embarrassing them is really the issue, if you don't embarrass them online you're probably embarrassing them in person. I think the issue is more about privacy & safety. I post pictures of my child on Facebook occasionally but don't tag the location or expose his real birthday. The fact that some parents post their newborn's stats the minute they are born (birthday, weight, height, hospital) scares the crap out of me! Nothing wrong with being proud of your kids but, we need to keep their digital footprint to a minimum. 

AJ@TheAJMinute
AJ@TheAJMinute

So horrible that Amy Webb's article was seen here! I'm disappointed in Time.com for referencing her as an 'expert'. IMO anyone should be able to post whatever they want about their kids. If their kids don't like it they can take it down. 

Miley isn't who she is because her parents put facebook sonograms of her online, it's because she's Miley. As someone who's Gen Y and who's parent's DIDN'T post those types of those photos, I almost wish I did have that internet timeline. And just like if my friends tag a pic of me I don't like, I could always have it taken down. I would never consider it an 'embarrassing inheritance of internet history'. 

I'm horribly disappointed that Time ever even considered Amy Webb. If you don't know who she is please go to Slate.com and search her name. EVERY one of her articles are unparalleled in their obnoxious-ness. 

Please people... let's try to move our generation and lives FORWARD... 

How about we try focusing on bigger problems, like world peace, instead of worrying that our instagram-ing habits may make our kids end up twerking like Miley??

JackKinnerly
JackKinnerly

Dismaying to see that Time picked up Amy Webb's Slate article so uncritically, and are amplifying her concern trolling.

Several commenters on her original article noted that they were able to do screen captures showing that Amy's page had several pictures of her daughter and no privacy settings.  They were able to confirm that this was the same Amy Webb as the article, because she used the same picture on Slate as on her FB page and her Wikipedia page.


Time should check into these things before blindly adding to the fear.  There are things to be genuinely concerned about.  Learn how to use the privacy settings, and keep them cranked down to only people you know to be friends have access to your FB life, and make a close friends group for stuff about your kids.  Don't have a bunch of acquaintances with access to everything.  Don't go bragging how you're going out of town.

And don't believe any articles written by Amy Webb, who has shown that she understands the tone she needs to strike to gain massive attention, but also that what she writes need have a very poor relation to the truth, and Time magazine will still pick it up and expand upon it.

DavidConroy
DavidConroy

Parents need to be careful about sharing stuff, because it might compromise their kids. Like Time needs to be careful about what sites they quote, because they might be Slate.

rndplusv
rndplusv

it's about responsible sharenting. kids need not to inherit the online brands of their parents -- much less an online identity of their own. 

MirandaWellness
MirandaWellness

@thelourie how bout status updates " *Child* made her first doody in the big toilet! Yay potty trained" Enough said...

DodoBirdVintage
DodoBirdVintage

@TIME babies don't have facebooks therefore can't be tagged so why would pictures show up on their timelines when they're older?

procm2
procm2

@TIME oh man I post picture of my kids all the time. they my highest achievement and I like to show them off to people who don't get to see

RockCrawford1
RockCrawford1

@TIME well if your kids are under Facebooks age cutoff, they shouldn't even be there, right?

Eby_James
Eby_James

@Chinnu_13 Photos? o.O…Even Parents Have Started Uploading Scan Reports To FB..Pinnalle Photos :P :D

jkjasslife02
jkjasslife02

@TIME I hav been always thinkin of this n I strongly feel parents should not post pics of their kids!! I mean hw cn parents b so casual??

NeideMaia
NeideMaia

Great article!!! Thank you!!!

sam_a19
sam_a19

"Over sharenting" lol RT@TIME: Experts weight in on whether parents should post pictures of their kids on Facebook | ti.me/1e0xbgo

nandinikakoti
nandinikakoti

@ikaveri @TIME Let my kid me known as mine today. Tomorrow he will grow up to be an individual and post his own pics. I see no harm.

j4v0rocks
j4v0rocks

@TIME please post pics of yr kids without privacy to attract all kids of negatives to ur lives ? Need better this is common sense

emma11000
emma11000

@TIME fantastic article. And coincidentally a discussion on fb last night around this subject, ending up me being verbally attacked.

LeaveComments
LeaveComments

I think this has always been a huge mistake. It is glaringly obvious to me how many people have no concept of privacy or what should be private. Especially online. This is why the NSA and government is doing whatever they want. Most people don't seem to care. 

jdtweet_
jdtweet_

@TIME @TIMEHealthland yrs n2 the internet already & im still fascinated by all who post period.dont care how attractive-play it safe!

trojanalumni1
trojanalumni1

@TIME why would you do something that stupid, you're putting your child or children in harms way

ObsessedAmerica
ObsessedAmerica

Americans are so obsessed about their kids that they post everything about them, including every poop and fart. Some of the pictures they post are simply disgusting: dirty, messy, unsanitary kids. And their equally kid-obsessed friends applaud "awww, that's so cute!". The more disgusting the picture, the more cute they declare it not because they think so, but because they think they are expected to do so in this kid-worshiping culture. To the overposting obsessed parents these "aww, so cute" comments are like asking for more. Kid-obsessed parents should respect their facebook friends and limit posting this kind of picture to the narrow circle of people who approve it and who are really interested in seeing them.

http://kidobsessedamerica.com/

thelourie
thelourie

@MirandaWellness Damn, that one is particularly bad. Some parents treat FB status updates like a journal. In this case: potty training. Ughh

ZeReinhardt
ZeReinhardt

@procm2 @TIME I share them with friends and family who are not able to see them otherwise. It's just different from when we were kids.

MirandaWellness
MirandaWellness

@thelourie akwaaaaard :p in the "friend" button, un tick "show in newsfeed" instead of just unfriending :)

thelourie
thelourie

@MirandaWellness Don't show option FTW. Unfriended a colleague once due to all the baby posts. She confronted me about it. Awkward...