This post is also available in: Svenska
Today we are happy to present a new guest blogger, IT security specialist Johanna Mannung. Joanna has written a very wise and thought-provoking post about writing and posting pictures of children on social media.
When writing something on Facebook, you should keep two things in mind:
1) anyone can read it, and
2) the post is online for as long as Facebooks like
If you write about your child on Facebook, you should therefore remember that what you write, may be read by your child or their friends in about 10-15 years. Nothing you do can one hundred percent guarantee that this will not happen. What you post is governed not only by what you do, but also by what your or their friends do. There are thousands of examples of when information has ended up on other sites, copied and ended up completely out of control of the person who first uploaded the image or text. For example, an acquaintance of mine tested a seemingly innocent application that caused all of his friends’ status updates to be copied to an external site.
Posting without consent is not good
Posting flattering pictures without consent or complaining about another person online, is bad. And children are people. Posting flattering pictures or complaining about your children is as bad as doing the same to an adult. Or perhaps even worse, because a small child can neither understand nor defend themselves and must also have their parents as their protectors. Therefore, it is extra important to have positive online knowledge and stick to positive content when writing about your children.
Just like adults, children and teenagers often want to be quite restrictive with what negative images they publish for their entire circle of acquaintances. Pictures that you post on Facebook also need to work in a completely different context. A picture of the child on the potty may seem cute and charming when the picture was taken, but that picture will not be as funny in 10 years when a nasty school friend digs it up and sends it around the class.
It’s easy to complain about children, but is it necessary to do so online?
When children defy or do not want to sleep, it’s easy to want to complain. Facebook can also be very supportive – if you write something about how hard it is, many will often offer a digital hug. Sometimes it can be tempting to write a joke online, such as “I can’t sleep tonight, anyone want my child?”. It’s probably something funny which many parents can empathize with. You’ll probably even get a lot of likes. But even those statuses must be put in a completely different context. What if the children themselves read their mother’s or father’s Facebook statuses? What will they think? The ability to understand sarcasm often comes after the ability to read. For a child who is completely dependent on their parents’ love, it can be really hard to see how parental love is questioned and joked about. And regardless of whether the sarcasm is understood or not, it is not fun to see their parents complain about how difficult you are in front of hundreds of others.
Sometimes you complain to show people how really difficult children are. Being real and not constructed is a choice you have the right to make about your own Facebook presence. However it doesn’t give anyone right to show someone else’s worst sides. You should have that person’s consent and children cannot give that consent.
Be cautious when writing about your children
I believe that a certain caution is important for things that concern negative aspects of one’s own life. Writing about depression, for example, is twofold as a parent. On the one hand, there are issues that are important to talk about and mental illness is one such thing. On the other hand, it is neither easy nor straightforward to tell that a child is growing up with a parent with a mental illness. There, the adult and the child may have different perceptions of who the information is about and what should be shared. I think that choice should be carefully considered weighing the risks. If you think that what you write is worth the disadvantages to the child, it may be OK to write about the matter. But remember to write it entirely from your own perspective and leave the child out.
So when you write about your children on Facebook, think that what you write, or the picture you post, should be content that you are prepared to defend when the child is a teenager and has a really bad day. Texts and images that are a show of love and respect, I believe will never be difficult to defend. With everything else, you should be very careful.
Review your posts every now and then
Another piece of advice I want to give, is to periodically go through the things you posted about your children. What felt good then may not feel as good six months later. Things that are deleted early have a much lower risk of popping up in awkward situations in the future.
/ Johanna Mannung