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Online Safety: Safeguarding Expert Shares Advice for Parents When Posting on Social Media

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With the summer holidays fast approaching, many parents will be sharing family photos on their social media, but doing so could pose a risk to their children’s privacy. 

With this in mind, a new study1 commissioned by High Speed Training, a provider of online training courses in child safeguarding, has revealed that over half (54%) of Brits choose to hide the identity of their children when posting on social media, with nearly one in ten (9%) opting to blur or obscure their child’s face, whilst 45% choose not to post images of their children at all. 

Nearly half of those surveyed (45%) said they would not share information about their children or grandchildren online. However, of those who post about their kids, nearly a third (31%) feel comfortable sharing their name or age, while one in ten (10%) are happy to share their child’s school, and a further 5% would share medical details. 

The impact of social media is an important issue for parents, with YouGov Profiles data2 showing that two-fifths (44%) of UK parents named social media as the most important issue in modern society, ahead of climate change and immigration. Parents of children aged 16 or under are 20% more likely than non-parents to name the topic as an important issue.  

Dr Richard Anderson, head of learning and development at High Speed Training, says: “What each parent chooses to share, or not to share about their child comes down to the personal preference of the individuals involved, but parents should be aware of the risks that can come with sharing information online, and that’s why we’ve shared our expert tips on safeguarding your children online.”

Use a private account

Suppose you plan to share information about your child. In that case, we recommend changing your social media account to private and checking through your followers to ensure you’re happy with who can view the information. 

It is worth remembering that even when your profile is private, once something is online, you may lose control of where, how and why your child’s image or information is used.

Establish ground rules

If you’ve decided you’re comfortable posting about your children online, we recommend establishing some ground rules with friends and family for what can and can’t be shared early. 

If you’ve decided you’re uncomfortable sharing your child’s face, explain your decision and reasoning to others looking after the child. This can help avoid uncomfortable conflicts and arguments in the future if a friend or family member posts something you’d rather they didn’t.

Think of the digital footprint

Before posting images of your children, it’s a good idea first to consider what information you’d be comfortable with a stranger in the street knowing, especially if you have a public social media account. 

Once a photo is online, it could stay there indefinitely and be seen by anybody – would your child be happy with that in 5, 10 or 15 years? You should consider how large of a digital footprint you’re comfortable creating for your child before they can provide informed consent.

Consider the types of images you’re sharing

If you are someone who wants to share photographs of your children online, try to be mindful of the types of images you’re sharing. For example, avoid sharing images of your child in the bath or a nappy/not fully dressed. While these images are completely innocent and wholesome family moments, keeping them private is best, as you never know who can access them online.

Similarly, photos and posts that include key details about your children could unintentionally reveal more information about your child than you’re comfortable with. For example, a wholesome “first day of school” post of your child in their uniform could reveal to strangers where they go to school. In such cases, you should consider obscuring any identifying logos or distinctive uniform parts to keep information private.

Consent is key

If your child is old enough to understand, we recommend asking for their consent before posting online. If your child is too young to consent, consider whether it may be best to be cautious with the information you share before they can give permission. Is it something they might be unhappy with being online when they’re older? If so, it might be best to refrain from sharing online.

Also, if your child says they’re happy but then years later decides they don’t want those images online, you should respect their wishes and privacy and delete them.

It’s important to communicate openly with your children on these topics, ensure they understand the potential risks of posting on social media, ask what they’ve been learning about the topic at school, and ensure they feel comfortable conversing with you. Having these conversations from a young age will also encourage your child to have a healthy relationship with social media as they age and potentially create their own accounts.

Don’t share images of other people’s children

If you’re a parent of school-aged children, you’ll likely have been asked by teachers not to share images and videos of events such as assemblies and nativity shows online. Unless you have the parents’ consent of every child in your photo/video, you shouldn’t post them on social media.

Dr Anderson adds: “While the government continues working on the long-awaited Online Safety Bill, it will be interesting to see how conversations on the topic developed. As online safeguarding experts, we’re backing the bill and are keen to see it pushed through parliament to ensure that safeguarding children is the top priority regarding social media use.”

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