Think Before You Post: Protecting Your Child’s Privacy Online

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Child's online privacyAs a stay-at-home AND work-at-home mom, on most days I have a greater chance of seeing the parents on Max and Ruby or a hair on Caillou’s head than I do of having a meaningful conversation with an adult.

So how do I fill the lack-of-adult-talk void? Facebook groups, lots of Facebook groups. 

There was a post in one of these groups recently that really got me thinking about how easy it is to violate our kid’s right to privacy.

The post in question was a mom sharing the details of a recent sex talk with her high school -aged son. Not the “birds and the bees” beginner talk, the advanced talk, if you catch my meaning.

Here’s the kicker. She included a photo of her son AND the son’s girlfriend.

Considering the mom used her real name and shared it with God knows how many people, it’s not inconceivable to think that the son (and maybe even the girlfriend) is going to someday find this uber-embarrassing post.

Think once, think twice, think about your child’s online privacy

We parents love to talk about our kids. Heck we have to talk about our kids. We love them, we’re proud of them, and we’re challenged by them. Who better than other parents to give us advice and support when we are going through really tough times with our kids?

You know what I bet most parents don’t think about before posting information about their kids? The information you share about your kids belongs to them, not to you.

And their present or future selves might not want that information shared.

Your child’s struggle with a serious medical issue? While it’s great to get support and encouragement from other parents, a future insurer could use this information to deny your child coverage. Your difficulties in getting your son to complete his college applications? A future employer could infer from this information that he’s lazy.

Okay, I’ll stop with the scary stories.

Balancing your “like” of posting your life on social media with your child’s right to privacy

You should only share information about your child if the benefit of sharing the information outweighs the potential harm of the information. In other words, you should have a really good reason for violating your child’s online privacy.

Remember the Golden Rule when sharing information online. Is the information you are sharing about your child something you would want shared about yourself? Would you want the details of your love life in high school shared with the rest of the world? No? Then don’t share your child’s.

Ask yourself, is there anyone in the world, now or in the future, who should NOT know this information about your child? Employers, college admission staff, and possible romantic interests? Assume they will Google your child and find the information.

Ask your child’s permission before posting ANYTHING about them online, including photos, funny sayings, accomplishments, and challenges. I do this with all of my kids, even the youngest who is five. While she may not fully grasp the concept, she knows that I respect her privacy and she should always demand others do as well.

Finally, make sure you have done everything possible to protect the information you share (but remember that nothing is ever 100% secure). Regularly check the privacy settings on your social media accounts. Set up notifications when your child’s name appears in a Google search result. If you’re posting information about a challenge your child is experiencing, consider posting anonymously.

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Siobhan Kratovil
Siobhán* Fitzpatrick Kratovil is a stay-at-home mom, solo attorney, and blogger. She practices in the Dallas area and specializes in business law and estate planning for families with young children. After years of conversations with other parents that started with “You’re a lawyer, right? I’ve got a question for you,” Siobhán started writing her blog Lex Mater (The Law Mother). With no legalese and a lot of humor, she answers a broad range of legal questions from parents, including what are those pesky liability waivers/releases you have to sign for every kid activity, how do you pick guardians for your kids, and her personal favorite, whose responsible when your kid’s favorite glitter shoes are stolen at an indoor trampoline park. Siobhán and her husband Chris, who is also an attorney, are the parents of four girls, Caitríona (13), Cara (10), Kelsey (8), and Claire (4). When she’s not mothering, lawyering, or blogging, Siobhán is a runner with far more passion than speed. You can find Siobhán at Lex Mater, on Facebook , on Twitter , and on Instagram. * Don’t know how to pronounce Siobhán? Don’t worry. It’s one of those impossible Irish names no one outside of Ireland can pronounce or spell. It’s pronounced “shiv-awn.”

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