This year, Facebook is 15 years old. Twitter is 13, Tumblr is 12 and Instagram is 9. Is it any surprise that many children who’ve joined our families in the last few years have been ‘born digital’?
It’s common for a child’s digital footprint to start even before they’re born. “We’re pregnant” the caption will read under an image of an ultrasound. Underneath you’ll soon see a thread of congratulations and heart emojis.
Perhaps in the intervening months the parents will post updates, from strange food cravings to their adventures in antenatal classes and an album for the baby shower. Then the big news: “Our family welcomes the arrival of baby [First name] [Middle name] [Surname] on [date] at [time]. Mum is doing fine and is hoping to leave [name of hospital] tomorrow.”
In their excitement, the parents have forgotten that their new addition has a right to privacy. And in just two sentences, the full name, date of birth and place of birth of this child is readily available online. Once lost, privacy is incredibly difficult to regain so here is the case for taking a step back when introducing your child on social media.
The rise of ‘sharenting’
It’s easy to see why parents share their kids with the world. Kids are cute and funny, which attracts plenty of ‘likes’, and social media allows us to bond easily with others about parenting matters, whether you’re looking to crowdsource opinions on a brand of nappies or are looking for support to help introduce your baby to solid food.
Unfortunately, there’s a potential future cost to sharing identifying details such as your child’s full name and date of birth. These details are essential for their identity as they move through life, from enrolling in day care and then school to obtaining a passport, from starting a bank account to getting a job.
Importantly, they are details they cannot change.
Revealing this information increases the risk of identity theft but also stalking and grooming, kidnapping and even paedophilia, so it’s best to err on the side of privacy.
So how should you announce a birth on social media?
How to safely introduce your baby to social media
Reveal only partial details
Don’t post your child’s full name. Consider using only their first name, an initial or a nickname. Or keep names out of it altogether and say, ‘my daughter’ or ‘my son’ or ‘my little one’.
Similarly, be careful about revealing their exact birthday. Don’t be afraid to be vague; instead of announcing the date and time of their birth, obscure the exact date by using relative terms like “Earlier this month we welcomed our bundle of joy!”
Share details privately
Create a circle of trust where everyone understands that details are not to be shared beyond the included members. You can either work with the social media channel’s permissions and privacy settings to create a closed group or stay off social media altogether and text the announcement to close friends and relatives instead.
Avoid posting potentially embarrassing photos
Many of us have those embarrassing photos naked in the bath as a baby or toddler but these pictures were easily kept private, stashed in a photo album in a drawer somewhere, and not readily available to view on a public feed by doing a quick search on our parents’ timeline.
Consider how such images may affect your child’s future or mental health, both in terms of their self-image and potential fodder for cyberbullying, as well as the possibility that images may end up in the wrong hands – the Australian eSafety Commission warns that half of all images on paedophile image-sharing sites originate from social media sites and blogs.
Today’s parents need to create a balance between sharing a child with the world and preserving their privacy. Because privacy is difficult to recover once lost, we recommend erring on the side of maintaining privacy. When your child grows up, they will have plenty of time to announce themselves to the world.
After all, it’s their life to share.