During the holiday season, as a mother, I find myself taking numerous photos of my children. I capture precious moments with their grandparents and cousins, as well as portraits of them in pumpkin patches. Although my initial instinct is to share these pictures immediately on social media, I have started to pause before posting.
Over time, my partner and I have had multiple conversations about our family’s values regarding social media, what we want to share, and what we prefer to keep private. These discussions became even more important when we became parents because we needed to make choices not just for ourselves, but also for our children.
If you’re a parent who uses social media or if your children are starting to engage on social platforms, now is a great opportunity to reassess or create your family’s social media policy.
What is a Family Social Media Policy?
A family social media policy is a set of guidelines or rules that your family agrees to follow on social media platforms. Every family’s policy will be unique. Consider your personal priorities, concerns about online engagement and time management, and your hopes for how social media can help your family connect with others.
Some families may have few or no restrictions on the content they share online. Others may ask their children for permission before posting their images or choose to limit the types of content they share. Some families may focus on the platforms they’re comfortable using, the amount of time spent on social media apps, or whether they engage with friends and family or strangers.
Reasons to Review Your Family Social Media Policy
Does every family need a written social media policy? Not necessarily. However, it’s a good idea to discuss how you share content and engage online with your partner and children, especially if you have young kids and teenagers.
Growing up during the early days of social media, my partner and I know that a digital footprint can last for a long time. Although we now share more photos since becoming parents, we also have privacy concerns and want to protect our children’s identities as they grow up. We are mindful of what we post, particularly when it comes to potentially embarrassing moments or images like bathtub photos.
Safety Concerns and Geotagging
As parents, we have valid reasons to be cautious about sharing location information through geotagging features on social media platforms. Many parents may unknowingly share this information unless they adjust their privacy settings. It’s important to avoid including identifying information, such as street addresses or teacher details, in pictures. While the risk of child abduction is low, it’s still wise to reconsider sharing such information if you’re unsure who can access it.
Unauthorized Image Use
Even though certain social media sites prohibit the unauthorized commercial use of images, it is still legal for digital outlets to embed public posts without the account holder’s consent. This means that a cute family photo shared online could potentially be made public by another website without permission. Although you can remove the image from social media, it may have already been archived or copied by someone else. To protect your privacy, setting your preferences to private on social media feeds is advisable.
Risky Online Behavior
If you have teenagers or preteens, it’s important to consider how to educate them about appropriate online behavior while maintaining an active social media presence. Teenagers face unique challenges, such as cyberbullying, sexting, and easy access to potentially inappropriate content. It’s crucial to set healthy boundaries that allow for a well-rounded childhood experience that includes school, friends, and extracurricular activities.
Creating Your Family Social Media Policy
The level of involvement you allow your children to have in creating your family social media policy will vary. Personally, I believe that if my children request that I no longer share their images, I will respect their wishes. Many celebrities and private individuals choose to obscure their children’s faces until they’re old enough to give consent. Ultimately, each family must decide what feels right for them and respect the wishes of each family member.
It’s also important to check with friends and family before publicly sharing photos of their children and to let them know about your family’s social media policy. As your children get older, involve them in the process of determining how your family can engage proactively and safely with social media platforms. Social media can be a way to connect with loved ones or explore topics of interest, but it’s essential to have open conversations about responsible consumption of content.
Every family’s social media policy will look different. Some may choose to monitor their teenagers’ online presence, while others may decide to delay smartphone use or social media engagement. Take the time to assess what feels right for your family.
Remember to Have Fun with Sharing and Socializing!
Despite occasional concerns, I still believe that with some basic guidelines, our family can have an online presence and build a safe and positive community that brings us joy. While I now spend more time scrolling than posting, having a solid social media plan and regular check-ins with my partner and children have reduced my doubts when it comes to sharing. When I want to post a cute picture from our recent family outing, I know where we stand and what everyone is comfortable with.