Posting about our kids is fun–but it can be a landmine. Raising children and teenagers can be hard and isolating. Parents need support and community.
But we need to balance our needs for support and community with kids’ rights to privacy.
When I ask students in my school workshops if their parents have ever posted something cringe-y or too revealing about them, they almost all raise their hands.
It’s not just embarrassing pictures, kids tell me. It can also be details and stories about them…shared intentionally or inadvertently.
Here are a few examples that might make your kids cringe:
“Who can refer me to someone for a social skills group? My daughter is struggling to make friends.” posted in a community FB page.
“Where can I find an uncircumcised-friendly pediatrician? ” posted in a parents’ FB group.
Both of these posts were from well-meaning parents who need information and are attempting to crowd-source it from people in the know–fellow parents in the community. But both of these posts could lead to a your kid being teased at school.
It would be very easy for a classmate, friend, or frenemy to see happen upon post like this on mom or dad’s phone or laptom. Parents have shared accounts of this kind of thing happening with considerable regret—they just didn’t think about their post being seen by peers.
What’s my why? Considering motivations
Here are some considerations about sharing about our kids on social media. Especially when we are thinking about sharing a mental health or neuropsych or health diagnosis, or other information your child might one day want to keep private.
Your need for support is valid but you don’t want to expose your kids’ life story, especially something they might later find out you shared and feel bad, or something that other kids might tease them about.
- Are you posting to show how much you care about your kids?
- Is it to help other parents?
- Is it to show our support for another parent struggling with a similar issue?
- To find a resource to help address a specific concern?
There are many reasons for sharing and many ways we share our parenting experiences. Some parents share constantly, while others share only the “milestones.” Some share on vacation and don’t share the “regular moments.” Some share to show the perfect moments, and some share to show how imperfect life can be.
One mom, who works as a life coach told me that she stopped using her daughter’s image in photos posted on her business’s social media page. Her daughter confronted her, saying, “Can you just remove any picture of me off of Instagram? Like now.” So her mother went back and took off several pictures. I can empathize with this mom–and her daughter.
What could be better for my social media posts about parenting than an occasional picture of my kid? But . . . he’s not interested in being part of my personal or professional social media sharing, so I have to respect that.
Social sharing can be like a diary or a curated photo album.
It can feel private, which is why some parents share with only a very limited number of people. For many parents, the “audience” might be their peers—other parents—or limited to grandparents and extended family. But sometimes we forget the audience or the scope of our reach. It’s easy to overlook the sharing settings on social media or our phone’s privacy settings.
Our “following” can be invisible, or at least not top of mind. And as the number of people in your following expands, it can be hard to keep in mind the whole audience when you post. Your children’s friends’ parents may be the unintended audience for a post of yours—which, in turn, potentially includes their network of friends as well. They might tease your kid about something you shared that felt innocuous.
Can I find a do this in a way that works for my kid?
OR…Can I find a way to find community in another way?
When photographing, writing, and posting about your kids, always consider the reasons–and if there is an alternative way to do what we want to do….
Often we post about the hard stuff we experience so we can help other parents.
Rather than writing a social post about how your daughter struggled with college applications and took the ACT three times, you could share that story – in person, privately – with your friend whose kid is in a similar situation.
Here are a few more thoughts about posting about the college search, specifically.
Sometimes, we post because we want to celebrate our kid and their awesome achievements, or just general wonderfulness.
Of course, you want to share–you love that goofy, wonderful kid! Rather than commemorating your son’s 16th birthday by posting photos of him as an adorable toddler in underpants and an awkward tween, you could just make sure you sing “Happy Birthday!” extra loud during breakfast.
When they get their Black Belt or win the gymnastics meet, it can be tempting to post a video. Check with your kid. If there are a lot of other kids in the video, maybe reconsider–instead of posting a video with a scene from a play where we can’t get permission easily from everyone documented, could you share an anecdote with a story from the play or something your child said about the experience that they have given you the all clear to post. Or, with permission, you could post a picture of just your kid in their costume.
Often, my urge to post is because I want to empathize with others and receive some support for the challenges of parenting –especially after the last few years.
This is also 100% valid. Call your sibling! Send a voice note to your best friend about your kid’s most recent shenanigans. Talk to a therapist. Join a support group. You could even join an online parenting community that allows for anonymous posting.
All of these needs are 100% valid and understandable. I want to be seen in all my struggles and victory as a parent too! We can meet these while respecting our kid’s privacy.
What if you do want to share about your kid’s standardized testing struggles and they give you the green light? Or a name change after a young person has come out as transgender that they have ASKED you to post?
“Posted with permission” is a phrase I’ve seen parents of teenagers use.
And I certainly feel more comfortable reading the information shared when I see that. Asking permission models great boundaries with our kids–boundaries we want to help them learn.
I still think we should be cautious as it can be hard to predict how our kids may feel about what we shared in the future. If in doubt, don’t share it out.
One thing you can try is to periodically audit your posts to see if there are old ones that maybe you want to take down. If your kids are still too young for social media, imagine they are almost 13 and joining you on an app soon and will be scrolling your posts for the first time. How will they feel? Is there anything you want to take down?
As you comb your posts for the past year for memories to put in the next year’s calendar or on the perfect holiday card, this is a great time to consider if there is anything to take down or keep in the family.
Ultimately, taking these steps will increase your kid’s trust in you and is ultimately a great way to teach your kid respect for privacy, respect, and boundaries.