Parents, Stop Exploiting Your Children via Social Media

This is a topic that is not necessarily France-related but has been on my mind for a while now. It’s a bit of a difficult subject – I want to be sure that I don’t offend any friends or family that could be concerned by my opinion. And hopefully what I say will not come as a surprise to any of them, hopefully they will have already considered what I am about to say and the implications of the content they publish featuring their children. But for anyone that hasn’t, well, it’s definitely something to think about.

Once upon a time on the Internet…

First, let me preface this by saying that I have no children – at least, not to my knowledge (Mom, Dad, calm down that was a joke). Therefore, I cannot say that I have set any type of example to follow regarding social media use and my children. What I do know, however, is that this is the first generation of children who will grow up with social media. Their photos will appear on Facebook and their videos will appear on YouTube – without their consent and without their knowledge.

“My baby likes reggae. Now legalize marijuana.”

I remember seeing this video come up on Facebook a while ago – and it shocked me. Not because some little boy liked reggae (big deal, I used to dance to the Rolling Stones when I was 4 years old – slightly less cool but still), but because the people who are responsible for him are posting this video as a “legalize marijuana” message. Now I’m probably getting way ahead of myself, but someday this boy will go to school and will also want a job. He had absolutely no control over this content but will be automatically linked to marijuana regardless. Will this content one day be used against him? Or will authority figures and employers ultimately realize that he was not an active participant in the creation of this content.

If you were studying, why is there a picture of you at the party ?

I remember when Facebook first came out, people had to come to terms with what content they should put on it. Little by little, people started to realize that they need to get a grip on party photos, inappropriate wall comments and potentially problematic group memberships. This happened especially once the Facebook generation realized that this content could be seen by potential employers. Then, people started to tune in to the relationship status. As people started adding more and more “friends”, it became apparent that it may not be the best idea to tell everyone who you date, how often you break up, etc. In all fairness, some people don’t mind – but many people won’t post their actual relationship status unless they don’t plan to change it for a fair amount of time.

(OK, and there are some people that downright lie on Facebook too…but that kind of defeats the purpose…)

Ha ha, and you thought there were privacy controls !

Now, I’m sure many people will tell me that many of these platforms offer privacy controls – and they do. Facebook has actually gotten a lot better about offering users customization options to that they can pin-point who sees what. But take my word for it – I have had people commenting on content that was not supposed to be visible to them. No platform is perfect. And don’t forget that privacy controls do not prohibit people with access to your content from sharing it with others. The best way to protect content that you don’t want to be seen is to remove it all together – otherwise you take the risk.

“I can’t walk but I have a Facebook account.”

Now, back to babies. Like I said before, I have no kids – but I do understand parents that want to share their child’s first words, first steps, etc. with their friends and family on Facebook. Heck, I love seeing my family halfway across the globe and being able to see their kids grow up. To a certain extent, it’s probably just the social media version of sending photos in the mail; no 2-year-old child ever had to give their consent for that! But the difference is that those photos usually ended up in very few hands. But as more and more of my Facebook friends get married and have children, I’ve noticed that they take the liberty to actually set-up Facebook accounts for their new born babies or to blog about their growth and life publicly. These are babies that can’t walk and can’t talk, yet they have a digial identity that is out of their control. And as they get older and eventually want to control that content, they may feel violated by decisions their parents have made regarding how they have distributed their content on the web. There is tons of software that can help you to monitor your children and what they do online later on – but what about what you do on their behalf until then?

Facebook and mobile phones, it’s all digital censorship from here.

At the end of the day, it is possible for anyone to snap a picture or a video of you, your child or anyone and put in on the net. Whether or not they identify you, tag you, etc. that content can be accessible and out of your control (so the best way to avoid it is to control yourself or accept that you run that risk). Employers are people too – as long as you aren’t doing something really horrific or illegal, they may overlook whatever silly content they find. But as a parent, responsible for a child, take your child into consideration and don’t exploit him or her via social media.

5 thoughts on “Parents, Stop Exploiting Your Children via Social Media

  1. Really liked your article.

    **Shameless plug** I wrote an article similar to this about a week ago, and it’s good to see that I’m not the only one feeling a little weirded about it.

    Thanks, again, for the post!

  2. Sometimes, I’m really happy that my mother doesn’t even know how to open a computer… I understand now why 😀

    PS : So, these photos dressed up in red panda will raise me objections, in the future ? Sh** !

  3. You’re right in some ways but totally I don’t agree.I believe we have to redefine privacy,by means of defining new terms under the lawsuit.Technology have change lots of terms and relationship manners.Obviously I don’t mean doing whatever (even pretending another personality) in social networks are fine or right,the only thing I’m pursuing is the change of data values that all of us are sharing today and will in the future by the passage of time.Something that had the meaning of privacy for us is not necessarily going to have anymore.We can call it “data which rely on time”.
    The case you’ve mentioned in your post is something directly related to matter of time(the story is even the same if we imagine the little kid has known and is informed what is going to be shared about him/her).In one place and situation a data doesn’t have any value but may have in the future or other specific moments.As I said, all of these must be gone under the wings of law.Maybe we have to coin “Data Time Privacy” in law concepts or even get a “Expiration for data value” from the court, in order not to be abused by what we share today.Citizens of social networks(netizens) shouldn’t have the fear of what they are sharing today may caught them in the future! This is obvious law pitfall and society culture prudery.
    The things that I’ve mentioned above are maybe just some of the new definitions we have to burn in our real life.
    Technology has grown rapidly,but in the terms of law,privacy and data value we are as behind and old as when the telegraph was invented! We need a joint specialists in social networking science,sociology and law to implant and define new concepts for the era that we call it social networks!! 😀

  4. good article, and a reminder about thinking about what you publish…
    in this digital social media time where most things seems so last year yesterday it’s important to remember that anything you put online or share has the possiblity of beeing forever…

    Regardless of privacy settings one should consider anything one publish public…

    When comes to children I cant help to think that it’s not really new, and it has always been a matter of good judgment… Just think about all those funny homevideo tv-shows.

  5. I’ve been a strong opponent to posting children on social media for a few years now. I find it particularly disrespectful and naive to assume that a child would want a profile and to be publicly displayed for the entire world to see. Things are just changing in a really big way and you were right, we are going to see an entire generation of people with their entire lives so-to-speak accessible to the entire world. We really haven’t considered the long-term implications of social media because it’s so new to us as a global culture. One thing I constantly remind people of is that employers right now are combing through our profiles trying to figure out who we are as individuals and we’ve only started this trend. I shudder to think when an employer has unfettered access to a persons entire life. Great article, thanks for sharing!

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