Facebook, InstaGram, Snapchat, and Twitter have millions of users worldwide. Social media websites have given people an opportunity to share moments of their life through text and photographs. As social media websites continue to grow in popularity, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) voices concern regarding the parent’s right to share and the child’s right to privacy. Experts discussed pros and cons of social media sharing at an AAP conference held in October 2016.
Positive aspects of sharing on social media include emotional support and practical advice for parents. Caution was advised regarding the permanency of sharing personal stories and photographs. One concern is that a child may encounter cyberbullying from others who are able to retrieve information from past social media postings (an example given was a parent discussing struggles with potty training and a future employer or middle school bully being able to find this information). Another concern discussed was easy accessibility and ability to reproduce children’s photographs. Disturbingly, an Australian study revealed that half of all photographs featured on pedophilia websites were stolen from social media. These pictures were normal pictures and did not contain nudity. Kidnappers and identify thieves can also take information retrieved from social media and use this to their advantage.
The United States does not currently have legal framework in place that recognizes the legal right to privacy for children. Recommended precautions for parents are listed below:
- Take time to review your social media sites' privacy policies.
- Set up notifications to alert you when your child's name is online (or available through search engines).
- Consider anonymous sharing about your child's behavioral struggles.
- Be cautious with sharing locations.
- Allow older children to filter online disclosures about them.
- Consider the risks before posting pictures of children in any state of undress.
Information for this article obtained from American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2016 National Conference: Abstract 319978. Presented October 22, 2016.