A Facebook friend of mine recently posted a picture of her teenage child in an awkward moment. The child was wearing a holiday sweater that clearly was meant as a joke, prank or revenge for some transgression. The child did not look amused.
I instantly wondered what the child's friends or classmates would make of the photo and how much ribbing the child would get at school the next day.
But posting pictures of our kids to Facebook is harmless, right? I wrote about that previously. In most cases, it probably is. But there are serious privacy issues and personal feelings that must be taken into account.
For many of us, Facebook is a way for far-flung family and friends to see our children grow and change. It's an easy, all-encompassing way to keep in touch and maintain friendships across the miles. But just because it's easy does that it's the right thing to do.
Facebook is Forever
The pictures we post on Facebook stay there FOREVER. They never go away. We are creating a virtual timeline of our children's lives that will live in perpetuity. Ask yourself — would you have wanted that when you were growing up? Would you have wanted every moment — from the milestones to the mundane — captured and uploaded for hundreds, if not thousands of people to see?
Children Don't Get a Choice
Most of our children cannot say no to having pictures of themselves broadcast online. They are too young. So, since you are in position to make decisions for them, you must consider if it is fair to your children to put their images on a social media website that could be seen, uploaded, screen-grabbed and manipulated by countless people.
All the Wrong Reasons
And what is your motivation for uploading the photo? Are you showing off your child to boost your own ego? Is that the right reason to blast a photo of your child for so many people to see? Our children are not accessories. They are people who will one day grow to be young adults and adults with very specific and defensible reasons about protecting their own privacy.
And there's an easy alternative. If you want to share a photo with family and friends, send them a text or email.
Privacy Settings Don't Matter
But what about privacy settings on Facebook, you say. How often have you updated your privacy settings? Remember that your picture is shared with your friends. Those friends can share that picture on their page, allowing countless others to see it. Also, when is the last time you went through your friend list? Are there people on there who might have an axe to grind? Is there anyone who might use a photo of your child against you or be able to glean harmful information from the photo?
There are unsavory characters online. Loads of them. Someone who might not have the best intentions could learn critical information — where you live, where your child attends school, where and when your child takes karate or dance — that might put your child in a vulnerable position. It's not just child predators, either. It could be someone from a previous relationship who feels wronged, an angry co-worker or even a family member who's fallen out of the family's good graces.
I know that some parts of this argument may seem far-fetched. After all, you've been posting pictures of your children to Facebook without incident for years. But it only takes one incident to create a lifetime of pain and ridicule.