Parents and social media – setting boundaries
- Estonian Safer Internet Centre
Henry Jakobson, Estonian Dad and blogger, explains how he strives to reconcile his activity as a family blogger, while also trying to protect his online privacy and safety, and most importantly, his children's.
"People who spend a huge chunk of their awake time online might sometimes lose the sense of what is appropriate to share and what should be kept to oneself. I have been active on social media for years and over time, I have set myself boundaries. I am sure it is common sense that there is a limit to everything.
"We can control the amount of data we are willing to put out into the world, but our young offspring cannot. They have no way out, they simply have to trust their parents not to do anything that could shame them. Sometimes, parents forget the way they used to be when they were young and people came over. Everyone sat down, flicked through photo albums, reminisced... But there was always this one secret photo album that was never showcased. These were the silly photos in which we were doing something embarrassing, we were on the toilet, under mum's skirt, and so on… And then, when our mums or dads got these photos out, we turned red and begged them to hide the horrors away. Parents did not show these albums to make their young ones ashamed, they truly found the pictures the funniest and cutest.
"But now hundreds of thousands of people might have access to this very same album – you can only imagine how embarrassing it could be for kids in the future when people Google them. That is my criterion. Would my teenager self feel ashamed if friends saw these photos and stories? If so, then I will not post it. Even if it is a perfectly focused shot, even if letting the picture "go to waste" is a pity – it will be stored in an album and my kids can decide for themselves in the future whether they want to share its contents.
"Internet safety is still in its infancy and an average user does not really care about being safe. That is also one thing I consider every time I post. The rare times when I am out with my entire family, I never share our day out on my blog or on Facebook, telling others where we are going or what we are doing. I will do it afterwards, because the fact that our home is empty at the time is not something I want everyone to know. We have made getting access to our private data so easy – malicious people simply have to keep their eyes and ears open. Therefore, you should always think whether your post might be used against you.
"Also, check your picture settings because by default our phones also share the date, time and location data when photos are posted. This is once again information that could prove harmful.
And now we come to the most important question
"Why am I doing this? This should be the first thing you ask yourself before posting. Why is this post necessary? What attracts people to my blog are my short stories but it is not uncommon that I struggle to post something and forcefully look for things to share. These posts are determined to fail. The reader will know right away if the post was organic or forced, the latter interests no one. Reactions to pictures also reflect this.
"There is a fine line between being successful on social media and not pouring your heart out to the world, and crossing it might prove very harmful in the future. I advise people to start off slow, things will figure themselves out over time. Oversharing might attract attention but is that the kind of publicity you want?
"People's boundaries are different: what is off limits for someone might be simply unusual for another. Your children get their first knowledge from you. This means your boundaries will likely be similar – do not post anything that could ever embarrass them."
Find out more information about the work of the Estonian Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Better Internet for Kids Portal, European Schoolnet, the European Commission or any related organisations or parties.
- Estonian Safer Internet Centre
Andra Siibak, Professor of Media Studies at the University of Tartu, presents the result of a recent study on parents who (over)post about their children on social media – not always with the child's consent – and the consequences it can have on the parent-child relation.
- Greek Safer Internet Centre
The Greek Safer Internet Centre, SaferInternet4Kids of FORTH, has recently published the results of new research looking at children's relationship with social media as seen from a parental perspective.