A new study has revealed that over half of Brits choose to hide the identity of their children when posting on social media, with nearly one in ten opting to blur or obscure their child’s face, whilst 45% choose not to post images of their children at all.
It’s no surprise that posting photos of children online, otherwise known as ‘Sharenting’, is a highly debated topic, and something that parents feel passionate about; this is evidenced by high profile cases such as three year old Wren and her mum Jacquelyn making headlines last year. Concerned mums on TikTok spoke out about alleged safeguarding issues involving the mother/daughter duo, amassing more than 70 million views on the hashtag #savewren and sparking conversations around the world.
The research was commissioned by High Speed Training, a provider of online training courses in child safeguarding, ahead of Safer Internet Day (7th February). The poll asked more than 2,000 UK parents and grandparents about their attitudes towards posting information and images of their children online.
Nearly half of those surveyed said that they would not share any information about their children or grandchildren online, however, of those who do post about their kids, nearly a third feel comfortable sharing their name or age, whilst one in ten are happy to share their child’s school, and a further 5% would share medical details.
When it comes to safeguarding and protecting children online, the impact of social media is an important issue for parents. High Speed Training analysed YouGov profiles data, which shows that two fifths 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.
Despite this, over half (51%) of parents with children under 16 said that they don’t worry about privacy when using the internet, compared to 30% of the general population. Parents (60%) are also less likely than the general public (70%) to believe that it is their responsibility (parents’) for child safeguarding online.
Parents clearly have concerns surrounding posting images and information of their children online, the survey revealed that the greatest concern was of strangers knowing information about the child, followed by considerations surrounding the child’s privacy and worries about putting the child at risk.
What each parent is comfortable with sharing about their children on social media varies from family to family. Some parents, like Hester Grainger, co-founder of Perfectly Autistic, share some information about their personal situation, whilst taking steps to conceal the identity of their children and respect their privacy.
Hester says: “We are a husband and wife team that run Perfectly Autistic, a neurodiversity consultancy and Facebook community. M We sometimes share stories about being a neurodivergent family on social media; my husband and children are all autistic and we are all diagnosed with ADHD. If I do use a photo of the children to go with the post, it’s always from the back or where they can’t be identified.
“I am very aware that I don’t want our children having a large digital footprint before they are even old enough to have their own social media accounts.
“Even when I post on my private Facebook profile, I ask permission from my children. I check they are ok with me doing so and if they are happy with the photo. If they aren’t, I won’t post.
“Everyone is entitled to their own views when it comes to whether or not they feel comfortable posting photos of their children, it’s down to each parent and family, with what works for them.”
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:
- Think of the digital footprint
“Before posting images of your children, it’s a good idea to first consider what information you’d be comfortable with a stranger in the street knowing, especially if you have a social media account that is public. You should also think about how large of a digital footprint you’re comfortable creating for your child before they have the ability to provide their informed consent.
- Use a private account
“If you’re planning to share information about your child, we would recommend changing your social media account to private and checking through your followers to make sure you’re happy with who can view the information. We would also recommend that you establish some ground rules with friends and family for what can and can’t be shared.”
- Consent is key
“If your child is old enough, we would also recommend asking their consent before posting online. If your child is too young to provide consent, then consider whether it may be best to be cautious with the information you share before they are able to give permission.”
- 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 to not share images and videos of events such as assemblies and nativity shows online. Unless you have the consent of the parents of every child in your photo/video, you shouldn’t be posting them on social media.”
- 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 online. For example, avoid sharing images of your child in the bath, or in a nappy/not fully dressed. Whilst these images are completely innocent and wholesome family moments, it’s best to keep them private as you simply never know who can access them online.”
Dr Anderson adds: “Whilst the government continues working on the long-awaited Online Safety Bill, it will be interesting to see how conversations on the topic develop. 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 when it comes to social media use.”
To learn more about the safeguarding courses High Speed Training offers and to read more on what parents think about sharing information about their children online, visit: https://www.highspeedtraining.co.uk/hub/safeguarding-your-children-online/