Who will remember the children?

There’s been a thought nagging me for some time.

It relates to a forgotten audience in the Facebook privacy debate.

When the community talks about Facebook, popular themes are often 1) our own privacy settings 2) how teenagers use Facebook and its impact 3) cyberbullying and its nasty side effects, etc.

No more photos, please!
No more photos, please!

Facebook defenders point out that how we use the social network is up to us, as individuals. We choose what to share. We can adjust our privacy settings. We can choose not to use Facebook at all. We should learn how to be civil online. Teens and others have reference to resources such as the Facebook Safety Centre and government resources like Cybersmart.

But there are some people who are being talked about on Facebook (and Twitter, and blogs, and FlickR and more) who may not have given even permission.


How many of you (or your friends) share their children’s photos on Facebook? I know I share photos and funny stories and milestones relating to my two sons regularly. Should I?

Will my sons appreciate the photos of themselves wearing watermelon helmets, emerging freezing from the swimming pool, blowing out birthday candles and looking like baboons, that they played Warhammer once upon a time? I don’t know that I would …

We talk about creating a digital footprint and personal brands more often these days. This next generation (call them Gen Z, Millenials, the Connected Generation or whatever) are having a digital footprint established for them by proud and tech savvy parents. Is this fair to them? Should they be able to start with a clean slate – like we did?

Our parents didn’t broadcast our learning milestones to the world. We don’t have our baby photos catalogued on the ‘net (unless you have loaded them yourself; stay tuned to what happens with Facebook Timeline).

This is the first generation to be facing this potentially embarrassing phenomenon. Granted, they may face it together, placing them on an even playing field, but will their childhood footprint cause them future angst and even problems if for example they need to ‘reinvent’ themselves?

We’re educated about the safety aspects of the online world. I don’t check into my children’s school on Foursquare for example and I don’t use their names on Twitter. But aside from identification issues, have you come across any educational material that prompts you to consider your child’s future online profile and the emotional impacts?

It’s a cliché to save an embarrassing photographs for your child’s 21st birthday party.

Is that redundant now? Have they all been published?

19 Comments Add yours

  1. Ric says:

    It’s a question worth asking, absolutely, but I would hesitate in trying to answer it, because we run the risk of answering it from the viewpoint of “us” and “now”, when we won’t really know the answer until those children have grown up, “them” and “then”.

    My belief is that society will become more accepting of those currently embarrassing photos, partly because we will have become accustomed to seeing them, and partly because it’s a “mutually-assured destruction” scenario – as you say we’ll all be in the same boat 😉

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks Ric. I agree society may be accepting, but it’s my sons’ and their disgust that I’m concerned about! I guess there is the delete button … may be clean up time in a few years.

      1. Ric says:

        Yes – that was why I hesitated – it’s difficult to foretell what (e.g.) your kids’ reactions will be in ten (?) years time; but would it be any worse than their reaction to having old-school printed photos shown around the family and projected, life-size on a wall, at the twenty-first?

        This is where I’m happy to be a little older – all the embarrassing photos of MY kids on Facebook they put there themselves 🙂

      2. Prakky says:

        Yes, I think it’ll be a little worse if your mates can Google your old photos!

  2. Ric says:

    [Addendum] I also hope that we will get way better at the whole identity/privacy/publicy thing soon …

  3. Ash Simmonds says:

    I would future-troll my kids to the max. Make up loads of stuff that never happened to them so they’ve later on got false memories of being awesome.

    My mother is in town at the moment, and though she has thousands of embarrassing (did we ever figure out how to spell that?) stories about me, she can only really recall a few at a time whilst in company. Imagine having a catalogue of anecdotes at your fingertips.

    Just be thankful I’m not a breeder.

    1. Prakky says:

      Fascinating, Ash. You’ve just touched on a whole new concept: fake awesome childhoods.

  4. Jase says:

    I have a few guidelines for posting stuff about my kids online. No rude bits, no names on Twitter (Mr 7 and Miss 5). If / when they get Facebook accounts, I’ll let them decide if they want to be tagged.

    Admittedly I’ve yet to experience the new timeline feature so I’m not sure how that will impact me and mine.

    Oh and no letting Ash within a country mile of them!

    … until the 19th of next month.

  5. Jen says:

    I’ve been sharing photos and stories of my son for a while now as I figure it’s my document of my experience of him growing up. He’s now old enough to know that I post pictures of him on Facebook etc and he gives me permission to to so or even says, ‘Mum, you can put that one on Facebook.’ My vision of my blog was for him one day to go back and read it when he’s older, maybe when he’s a parent and know what I had to deal with. Although it’s not all about him.

    Also, now that he’s older there’s SO much that I don’t say about what he gets up to. I reckon he can start his own online presence and tell the world what he wants (within reason cause I’ll educate him about digital footprints etc).

    1. Prakky says:

      That’s a great point Jen: it’s an online diary too, that our children may love.

  6. Ric says:

    Ash – re “embarrassing” … I spell it how the Mac auto-corrects it 🙂 (as I discovered when I checked)

  7. Anne Jones says:

    I agree this is such a difficult subject and I could argue for both sides.

    My husband is a teacher and I am very aware of how’s kids are subject to bullying 24/7 due to Facebook, msn, and other online mediums. However it can also build relationships between kids and give them a connection to others from all over.

    As for posting about our own children, if we do not tag them… Will it effect their future online profile that they will inevitably create for themselves. As my privacy settings are set quite high, I am quite comfortable with what I post Facebook for now….

    I suppose every bodies situation is unique and they must decide for themselves what they are comfortable with….

  8. There are some folks I know who have setup FB accounts for their kids and regularly tag them etc. It just gets so ugly when they get to an age where they unfriend their parents.

    But I think there are some big issues here that we have not yet even imagined.

  9. Kym Charlton says:

    I saw an estimate that 80 percent of kids unr five have their pics on the internet.

    The concerns for pirvacy and safety are significant, and should not be unestimated. It is not only doting grandparents who will be ogling these kids online.

  10. Gary Lum says:

    I liked this post. It’s a question I often about. I don’t want to embarrass my children. I want to protect them, though I am very proud of them. Occasionally I’ll post am image of medals or trophies but not their faces.

  11. Caroline says:

    I regularly threaten my eight year old that I will put his naked baby photos on FB if he doesn’t clean up his room etc. Works a treat, especially as I’m FB friends with lots of his friend’s mums and he knows that.

    On a serious note though I tend to put photos of the kids up for a while and then go through and delete them all regularly.

  12. I never ever post a picture online of my childrens face, maybe a leg or an arm every now and then but that is it. When you are looked at by 7000 people in one day, you do not want them then looking at your children too.

    Our children need to be protected, by us and I guess also from us, we are a photo generation and we quite confidently say what we mean..at the time…but of course our opinions change as do the way that our children want to be viewed.

    If you choose to put yourself out there, that is your choice…DO NOT MAKE THAT CHOICE FOR YOUR CHILDREN!

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