Posting a Child’s Life For the World to See is a Privacy Issue

child fog

As fun as it is to share all of our kids’ funny stories and embarrassing mishaps, we need to think of their right to privacy and not just our right to share.

By Myra Hamilton


Children consistently delight and surprise us, and make us hoot with laughter. It’s only natural to want to share these moments with friends and family. But the trend of posting information about our young children on social media sites raises an important issue: don’t children deserve some privacy?

Traditionally, people may have told funny or icky anecdotes about their children to their nearest and dearest when they saw them, or wheeled out embarrassing photos of their naked children at 21st birthday parties.

But social media sites provide the opportunity to share this information far more widely. Parents can place information permanently online where it may come back to haunt them, or their children.

Many parents post photos and videos online of their young children during their most cute, funny, or embarrassing moments. Daily chronicles of the most personal kind are appearing on social media sites around the world. These posts include the most intimate anecdotes about anything from poo and vomit to funny or misguided comments children have made.

This can begin from the child’s earliest moments – from ultrasound images to photos of newborn babies still naked and covered in blood. One parent even posted an image of a toddler on the toilet with his pants around his ankles, peering down with trepidation.

While it’s natural for people to want to share information about their children’s funniest moments, it raises important issues about children’s privacy. A discussion of these issues has been strangely absent and as the trend intensifies, it is a discussion we need to have.

The issue is particularly salient in the context of younger children who are not old enough to speak for themselves. They cannot consent to the information being shared, or understand the possible implications.

Are children not owed some privacy as they learn to navigate the world? Can they not expect their most intimate moments, when they are at their most vulnerable or raw, to be shared only amongst those closest to them?

Should they not have the choice, when they are old enough to exercise it, about which of the moments catalogued by their loved ones are made more public?

In addition to expecting their privacy as children to be protected, there’s also the issue of their privacy as future adults. What about when the child grows up? If the information is available on social media when the child reaches adolescence and adulthood, there’s a reserve of fodder for potential bullies at school, for potential employers, and for the media if they become prominent.

If a child whose every intimate moment has been photographed, described and posted online develops a public profile, or enters political office, her parents will have created the ultimate “dirt file”.

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Research with children consistently shows that being listened to, having their views taken seriously, being given choices about decisions that affect them, and being treated respectfully are essential to their well-being. This is vital for their sense of self and their relationships with the adults around them.

Some progress has been made in responding to children’s wishes. In Australia, growing recognition of children’s rights has meant they are increasingly treated as autonomous agents possessing rights.

In 2013, Australia’s first National Children’s Commissioner was appointed at the Australian Human Rights Commission to ensure that children’s voices are heard when “decisions are made about the issues that affect their lives”. Today, the commission launches its Children’s Rights Report, the first of its kind in Australia.

Policy and research concerning children now aim to be more participatory and inclusive of children’s views. Children are increasingly treated as though their “expertise” in their own well-being is a resource that can be tapped when developing policies and services to meet their needs.

The trend towards posting intimate images, videos and information about children online on a large scale is antithetical to all of this progress.

As social media becomes a more pervasive part of our life, we need to start talking about the implications of this trend, and what our children might think about it now and in the future.


Myra Hamilton is a researcher on a project that receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

The Conversation


This article was originally published at The Conversation.
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  1. Shameless Survivors says:

    Thought provoking article. I am guilty of sharing sweet, tender teen talks with friends, much to the chagrin of my children. For me it was about sharing their innocence about the world is still in tact despite social media and internet intrusions. They post any manner of things so I had a hard time seeing my infraction. I was blissfully oblivious that to my teens it was private and personal business I was sharing and they were actually filtering what they put out on social media. This article is a goid reminder not just about social media, but basic respect of children’s right to privacy in general, whether in casual conversation or online. It is much too close to gossiping about them for comfort.

  2. I’ve always been very cautious in this matter and have tried to err on the side of privacy. As usual, technology surges ahead and issues of ethics lag far behind. Wait a second, shouldn’t this also be discussed in the context of the NSA?

    It’s interesting how there are many individuals and organizations that see this as a serious issue, yet many governments could care less in terms of privacy rights.

  3. First off, thank you for this article. I just had this conversation with my wife about posting our kids pictures. Being as I’m an amateur photographer, I enjoy sharing pictures of all sorts of things, mainly hobbies I enjoy, family and most importantly my beautiful (yes I’m bias) daughters, 1 and 3. After long talks and back and forth opinions we decided to only share pictures with family members via email (the old school way).
    I was not thinking of how my pictures may affect them down the road, when they are in middle school, or even high school. I thought about it from the perspective of “would I want my mom or dad posting everything about me for the world to see”? Answer: NO. It would be horrible for one of my daughters to eventually lose my trust over some unflattering pictures or an embarrassing story (although hilarious). It’s just like thinking before you speak. Is it Kind? Will it hurt others? Will others benefit from it? Is it necessary?
    I was defensive with my wife at first, because all her family lives in the same state as we do, making it easier for our girls to see relatives. I’m originally from the west coast, so all my family live in the AZ/CA. The easiest/quickest way I have to show them pictures is via social media, we can’t just stop over for dinner. And to email and type each email individually, seemed too daunting a task (until I realized I can just set up an email family group list)… My wife convinced me, and then after reading this article, I am glad we made this decision. Peace and Love to all GoodMen…..and women 
    Nick D.

  4. I love that children are being taken more and more seriously as individuals. I think it’s a sign of a emotionally mature society to recognize them as people (even if they behave like drunk frat boys most of the time). I have mixed feelings about sharing about my kids’ lives via social media. OUr social relationships are evolving rapidly with the introduction of online connections, and therefore, how we share and connect is also evolving. As we trip over the learning curve, I hope (and believe) that what holds true in life away from the keyboard will also hold true in screen time. That is, that people either have good judgement or not. My daughter has appeared in a widely read newspaper, and online. Which is more exposure? Well, I like to think I have more control over who sees my daughter online since I have the option to tailor the audience. A newspaper, well, not so much. Conversely, we see very intimate moments that have been shared online spread around for ridicule because at least one person who was trusted enough with the information abused that trust. The potential reach of the internet is much wider than the reach of a large city’s newspaper. I understand that we cannot fully grasp the ramifications of posting our lives online just yet, and that remains to be seen. I know we’ll figure it out.

  5. I don’t post pix of my kids on social media, I always saw that as damaging their right to privacy. To many kids will grow into adults that have their awkward years indexed and accessible to all by google etc….. I prefer to let them grow up and present the face they wish to the world, not be bound by the narrative My wife and I might have chosen for them. And as teens I’ve suggested pen names etc for facebook,twitter etc…. so they can disconnect as they get older from worn out used up personas.


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