Many parents worry about their children's online habits, but your own online posts can also impact your children's privacy and safety. These tips will help you protect your family when you use the internet and social media.
How your online activities can impact your children
Most children these days have an online presence long before they are able to use social media themselves. Many parents post on social media at every stage of their child's development, from the birth announcement through to funny toddler pictures and even detailed descriptions of children's behaviour in parenting blogs.
Most posts are harmless. But parents' social media posts can sometimes have unintended effects on their children.
Safety: If you share children's photos or videos online, it's possible they could be misused by people who don't have children's best interests at heart. For example, innocent photos posted online can be ‘harvested' and shared, copied or manipulated for other purposes. Predators can use your posts to identify your children or even find their location using geo-location services.
Privacy: Everything you post on social media should be considered public and will last your child's lifetime. Personal or intimate posts about your children can compromise their privacy and cause them embarrassment as they grow up.
Wellbeing: The number of 'likes' or the comments on your photos or videos can affect how your child feels about themselves. Oversharing your child's life can eventually lead to resentment, a loss of trust, and other psychological issues.
Things to consider before you post
Every time you post about your child, ask yourself:
- Would your child agree to the photo or video being posted (if they are old enough)?
- Who can see this post?
- Is there anyone else in the photo or video? Do you have their permission to post?
- Will this post offend anyone?
- Can your child be identified (for example, by a school uniform or a street sign)?
- Would you be happy for a crowd of strangers to see this post?
- How will your child feel about this post in years to come?
You can legally take photos or videos in a public place unless it is offensive or creates a nuisance. In private places, such as sports clubs or schools, you may need permission before you take photos or videos.
The Privacy Act does not specify when a child is old enough to provide consent. But it is always a good idea to let your child know what you're posting. Always ask for permission from the parents of other children whose pictures you may want to post.
Make sure you turn on privacy settings to control who sees the post. If you are worried about the post getting into the wrong hands, consider sharing it another way, such as by email or a multimedia messaging service.
Protecting your child
The following tips will help you protect your child's identity and safety online.
- Do not post photos or videos that contain personal information such as such as your child's name, address or telephone number.
- Make sure your child cannot be identified by a school uniform, street signs or other visual clues.
- Turn on privacy settings so only friends and family can see your posts.
- Consider turning off the geo-location settings on your accounts.
- Do not share information about your child's hobbies or special interests, since this can be used by predators to groom them.
- Take particular care when the photo or video shows children with minimal clothing, such as in a swimming costume or gymnastics kit.
- Use strong passwords and keep them updated.
- Contact police immediately if you become aware that someone is misusing a post about your child.
For more information, visit the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.
Social media policies
Schools and organisations must have written consent from a child's parents/carers before they publish any photos or videos, including on social media. Many will have a social media policy that provides details about what photos can be posted, how they will be used, and how consent will be obtained from parents. You should refer to this policy before you post any photos of children at school or organisation events.
If you are concerned about a post made by a school or organisation, first contact the organisation or their website administrator to ask them to remove the post. You can also lodge a complaint at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (1300 363 992).
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: April 2020