What you are doing to your kids’ digital identity

About to post a photo of Tom’s first steps or Evie’s school concert to social media? Read this first.

Research tells us parents post almost 200 photographs of children under five online every year.

That means some kids feature in around a whopping 1000 online pictures before their 5th birthday.

While social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have replaced traditional “photo albums” for parents – allowing them to proudly share pictures, videos and events in their child’s life with friends and family – it comes at a risk.

Children and technology expert Dr Joanne Orlando warns a major difference between sharing pictures in person and on the internet is that once photos, comments and videos are online, they stay there.

“This means that anyone can potentially access images and details about your child’s life now and in the future,” she says.

“It also means many children will have a powerful digital identity created by someone else, that they cannot change.”

Check the three Cs

The tech expert says parents should consider the “embarrassment factor” of their posts against three factors:

  1. Content: Are your photographs potentially embarrassing, such as your child having a temper tantrum?
  2. Comments: Is what you are saying in your post portraying your child in a negative way, such as “Hannah is always forgetful”?
  3. Coverage: How many posts are you putting up? Think about how a 13-year-old boy will feel if you’ve uploaded 60 photos of him learning how to walk.

children's digital identity

Let children decide how you use their image

Dr Orlando encourages getting into the habit of asking a child’s permission before posting their image online.

“Research shows the second-biggest frustration kids have about parents’ technology use is that they share information about them on social media without their permission,” she says. “If a child is too young, err on the side of caution.”

She says parents should also only post content that shows children in a positive light.

Hashtag #warning

Dr Orlando also warns parents to be aware of the implications of using hashtags.

“While you might use cute hashtags like #kidsbathing and #pottytraining, when posting online, if your account is set to public your child’s image will be published on a corresponding hashtag page for everyone to see,” she says.

“The implications for your child’s privacy and safety are huge as anyone can search those hashtags.
“In terms of their digital identity, your child will be associated with that hashtag now and in the future.”

Dr Orlando says setting social media accounts to private and regularly checking our child’s basic digital footprint by searching their name on Google and on family and friends’ accounts will also help to protect their digital identity.

Catch up on the full episode of The House of Wellness TV show to see more from Zoe, Ed, and the team.