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Children On Social Media... What's The Big Deal?

Mum of two Sarah Hughes is pro-sharing on social media and admits while it’s not for everyone, it can be a clever way to update friends and family without having to contact your entire address book, every time. Which camp are you in? To share or not to share – that is the question?...

Five years ago I started my parenting blog ‘Pearls of Kiddom’, mainly because everybody told me my sons were hilarious and that I should share the lol’s with the world.

I have to admit that I gave little to no thought about how sharing photos and anecdotes about them would impact their privacy. It was something lighthearted and fun, an outlet for my creativity while I was on maternity leave. The fact that it turned into something which made money and opened lots of other doors in my writing career was no more than a happy accident.

Fast forward five years and my cute little newborn, five year old and seven year old are now a cheeky 5 year old (who provides endless material dontcha know), a sensitive/crackers 10 year old and a too-cool-for-school 12 year old. These days I’m increasingly aware that posting about them could allow people to know things about them which they don’t want to disclose. I’m also aware that some people might think me sharing anything about them online, even their images, is fundamentally wrong. Some of you reading this article might enjoy my Instagram or my articles, but feel that you would not want to give as much information out about your kid, or your life. And I totally respect that. Different strokes for different folks and all that jazz.

I’ve never had anything other than positive responses from both people I know, and followers of the page, with regards to what I share about the boys. And I should say that a) I don’t share everything indiscriminately… there is so much that goes on in our house that I would never share with strangers! And b) for the past few years, I have run past the elder two boys anything I write about them, giving them the full journo read-back treatment. When it comes to my articles about them or even posts which are more emotional than humorous, they’ve been known to get quite tearful (happy tears I swear) and hug me and thank me. The blog has almost become a series of love letters from me to them. An account of our family and what they mean to me.

But could I actually be doing them some tangible harm in sharing any part of their lives online?

There is definitely a risk that they could be teased as a result of my posts and there have been widely reported cases of children being cyber-bullied with images of themselves found on either their parents’ or their own social media channels. Not something to be taken lightly; it’s our job to protect our kids from just such experiences rather than put them in the firing line of it.

There is also of course the even more worrying chance that the images could fall into the newsfeeds of child predators. It’s why most parents, including me, usually blur out school crests on uniforms

or hide locations if they’re sharing photos of their children. Tightening up our online security is something we could probably all do with looking at, and no area of our online lives should be protected more closely than the ones which contain our children.

Finally, a niggle I have around my own and others use of their children in their social media , especially if it’s monetised, is, have the children consented to this and do they understand the potential ramifications? In truth I think the answer is… no; children don’t have the knowledge or maturity to make a considered decision on this. The other side of this coin however, is that they don’t have the maturity to make considered decisions on the vast majority of things in their lives, and as parents we weigh up pro’s and con’s, risks and rewards every single day, and ultimately make decisions on their behalf.

I’m not alone in sharing photos of my kids on social media. In fact, the practice has it’s own name… Sharenting! And it’s pretty common-place isn’t it? Whether it’s newborn spam, those ‘first day at school’ photos, or teenage prom parties, most parents regularly take to social media to brag about their kids. It comes from a positive place of course, feeling proud about your child; and maybe it also is just a convenient way to update friends and family without having to contact everyone individually.

As with all aspects of parenting, I really think this issue has to be specific to each family and indeed each child. There is no right or wrong, one-size-fits-all approach we can take. As a family unit it’s important to have clear boundaries on whether photos get shared online, how much detail each family member is happy to have on display about their lives.

In terms of my boys, they are very chilled out about what I share. They trust that although my posts about them make people laugh, they’re always the hero of the piece. Over the years they’ve enjoyed the small-time fame/notoriety (bit of kudos in the school yard) of being one of the Pearls of Kiddom boys. They’ve also enjoyed plenty freebies in terms of clothes, shoes, toys and days out that my writing has afforded them! And they’re always really appreciative of that; they see the link between what we share and the benefits they might receive.

For us, and hopefully for most families who ‘sharent’, it’s an ongoing, open conversation. I respect their boundaries entirely. There have been a handful of times over the years where I’ve taken a photo or they’ve said something hilariously inappropriate and they’ve immediately shouted “Do Not Post That Mam!”

I don’t need to be told twice. I work for them after all.


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