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Modern Parenthood

Generation social: Sharing 'on behalf of' your kids

Shutter-happy parents love sharing kid photos, cute stories, and parenting mishaps on social media, but how much sharing is too much? Try the 'grandma rule,' suggests this mom.

By Correspondent / September 30, 2013

Photo sharing: Sharing silly photos of kids accounts can be fun, but parents should be aware that some photos might prove to be sources of embarrassment when kids get older.

Zack Wittman/MLive.com/AP

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I recently met my friend’s daughter for the first time in person. I already knew what she looked like and snippets of her personality through her parents’ posts on Facebook. I have essentially been her friend on Facebook for years, but it will be another decade before she has her own profile.

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Lane Brown is a writer, owner of a marketing consulting business, and first-time mom. You can find her musings on Mudlatte.com.

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Similarly, my college buddies keep me posted on their daughter’s adventures via Instagram, posting photos of her on the trail, on a bike, and outside in Montana living the life of a mountain girl. Or, at least I assume she is a mountain girl because these are the only pictures I have ever really seen of her. I haven’t made it out to Montana since she was born.

And don’t get me started on the absolutely adorable pudge on my honorary nephew in New York. At six-months-old he is already slated to be my son’s best friend, as soon as we find time for a trip to the city.

I know more about my friends' children through social media posts than real-life encounters. Children today are part of the first truly social generation whose lives will be documented from birth to adulthood on social media sites. So, what is my son like to those who only know him online?

As adults, we put our best selves online (or a tightly managed, pleasantly self-deprecating version of our flawed selves). Like the “casual” picture of me sitting on the porch with my son that was taken and re-taken four different times by my husband before I accepted that it looked ready for mass consumption. Do we edit the information we share about our kids in the same way? 

I think we have to behave online as if we are posting on behalf of our kids, not about our kids. It’s already hard enough for many folks to be friends with their parents on social media, as Mashable points out in this list. Now fast forward a decade or so and think about how your kid will feel seeing a post about his failed attempt at potty training. I want my son to appreciate his online profile before he takes it over. 

When it comes to posting and sharing on social networks, plenty of resources exist urging teens to stay smart and safe online. Facebook has an entire division dedicated to online safety and a Safety Advisory Board. However, few resources teach parents what to do when posting on behalf of their own kids.

As a marketer, I’ve put together a few thoughts related to how to think about posting on behalf of your kids. Facebook is referenced a lot (especially as the number one network among my mom friends), but these tips apply to Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Google+, and other social networks as well. 

What not to post:

  • Please don’t share detailed descriptions (and DEFINITELY no photos!) of explosive diapers, vomiting, bloody noses, potty training mishaps, or any other bodily functions gone wrong. If you want sympathy, call a friend. If you genuinely need medical advice, I’m inclined to suggest that it won’t come from your former sorority roommate’s “hang in there!” comment. 
  • Never post nude photos of your kids online. I can’t believe I have to make this point, but I have seen one too many bare buns shots to gloss over the subject. There are definitely risks associated with predators who search for and use these kinds of photos, but more importantly, your kid will probably never want that picture in the public domain. I’m all for breaking out the cringe-worthy baby on a bear skin rug photo, but only in private when my son can defend those dimples in person. 
  • Avoid extensive and lengthy complaints about your kids. I have been reminded (repeatedly) by generations of mothers before me that I have it easy. I would tend to agree. I know there are always exceptions, but if I have time and the means to use social media to share commentary about my kids, odds are I’m not keeping busy tending the farm, darning socks, or working in the mine. So, I have implemented what I will call the “grandma rule” for social posting. If your grandma wouldn’t complain about it when she was raising kids, don’t go complaining about it yourself. 

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