How your online activities can affect your children
Most children these days have an online presence long before they are able to use social media themselves. Many parents post on the internet at each stage of their child's life. This may include birth announcement through to funny toddler pictures. Some parents post detailed descriptions of their child's behaviour in parenting blogs.
Most posts are harmless. But your social media posts can sometimes have unintended effects on your children.
Can I safely share photos of my child online?
If you share photos or videos of your children's online, they may be seen by many people. It's possible that they could be misused by people who don't have your children's best interests at heart.
For example, innocent photos posted online can be 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.
What do I need to consider about my child's privacy when posting online?
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.
What do I need to consider about my child's wellbeing when posting online?
The number of 'likes' or the comments on your photos or videos may affect how your child feels about themselves. Oversharing your child's life without their permission can cause problems for your relationship. It may lead to:
- a loss of trust
- 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, and 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?
Do I need to get consent?
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. Instead of posting online, you can use:
- direct email
- a secure online service
- a multimedia messaging service
How can I protect my child's safety and privacy?
There are things you can to do protect your child's identity and safety online.
When you post photos or videos, ensure they do not have personal information in them. This may include things like:
- your child's name
- their address
- their telephone number
To keep your child safe, you should also keep visual clues out of online posts, such as:
- your child's school uniform
- street signs
The following tips will also help you protect your child online.
- Ensure you don't share the schedules of your children's activities online.
- 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. This information can be used by predators to groom them.
- Take extra care when the photo or video shows children with little clothing, such as in a swimming costume or gymnastics kit.
- Use strong passwords and keep them updated.
- Some social media sites give themselves rights to copy the photos and videos posted. Check their Terms and Conditions before sharing photos of your child.
Contact police straight away 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 gives details about what photos can be posted.
The policy may include details on:
- how parental consent to use the photos will be obtained
- how the photos will be used
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).
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: May 2023