When it comes to posting pictures on social media we tend to operate a bit like the archetypal cowboy in a spaghetti Western; ‘shoot’ the picture first, ask questions later. This minor epiphany came to mind after reading an article about parents, kids and social media.

Growing up on social mediaGrowing up on social media

The feature posed this question: should parents stop posting pictures of their children online? Not because it is annoying/boring/infuriating for their friends/followers. Instead due to the ‘digital shadow’ they are creating for their child – a treasure trove of embarrassing moments from potty training to the first time they tried to put makeup on.

Should we think before sharing pictures of our kids as they grow up? In the context of maintaining and building strong, positive relationships the answer is yes.

Parent – child relationships and social media

No generation before the ‘millennials’ had to deal with the aftermath of a digital shadow. Of course almost all of us can recall parents showing our new boyfriend/girlfriend embarrassing pictures of us when we were little. That was in a far more intimate and limited setting compared to the realities of growing up on social media.

Nowadays that image (or more likely video) can be shared with hundreds of people. If the parent in question is not particularly savvy with privacy settings, that could multiply to thousands. And it is there to stay. Online and visible until mum/dad work out how to delete their profile or Mark Zuckerburg pulls the plug on Facebook.

Related article: Teens, relationships and social media

Self-image on social media

Growing up on social media
Sarah had just found her mum’s Facebook profile…

Advance a few years and your little darling is now a pre-teen/early teen with their own social media persona. How are they likely to react to all those – undoubtedly cute at the time – pictures and videos? Coming to terms with self-image is one of the toughest issues for adolescents to cope with (and judging by social media, many adults too).

From a relationship perspective maintaining a positive connection between parent and teen through adolescences is naturally a significant challenge. Toss a digital shadow in to the mix for an image conscious teen and the damage could be significant.

The original article that sparked this post went as far as to ask whether parents should seek permission to pre-empt legal action by their offspring later in life. In the USA (somewhat unsurprisingly) there have been attempts to make ‘shaming’ kids online (those potty training pictures again) an offence under law. This all feels too much and plain silly. Can you imagine asking your 2 year-old to slap a palm print on an image rights contract?

Perhaps the answer is much simpler. We should try to be less like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. Think first and then ‘shoot’.


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