Toddler Interrupted: Why That Facebook Picture Isn't Worth It

Are we over-exposing our kids to social media?

As parents, there are fleeting moments when caring for your children makes you question your sanity. Whether it is from laughing so hard at their baby talk or riding the pendulum to the other side where you are furious with their leg kicking, fist pounding, belly on the floor screaming tantrum in the grocery store aisle. Raising children is definitely not for the faint of heart.

That is why so many of us turn to social media to share our triumphs and fails with our friends. However, snapping and uploading hundreds of cute toddler pics can actually be harming our sons and daughters in ways we never imagined. While parents across the country are documenting every tantrum, sweet moment and embarrassing misstep, the world is getting a front row seat to our children’s raising.

Society’s fascination with sharing our kids’ pictures on Facebook and other forms of social media has the potential to interrupt our toddler’s growth and happiness on many different levels. To put it into perspective, it is believed that 92 percent of today’s children in the United States will have an online presence before they are two. It is fairly safe to say that our babies, who’ve barely honed their basic barnyard animal sounds, aren’t mastering advanced computer skills in between their morning naps and snack times. That places the blame solely on our shoulders.

Caregivers still have be on the lookout for the standard childhood ailments that our parents worried about, but now they also need to consider a wide array of unseen dangers lurking behind the computer or cell phone screen. It is tempting to share images with distant relatives and friends, but parents need to step back and consider all the possible implications before uploading that next family selfie.

A relatively new form of kidnapping is taking place online when strangers “photonap” children’s images. People are frequently stealing photos of other people’s children and claiming them as their own. Hijacking a child’s photos is bad enough, but some criminals are taking innocent photos of children in underwear or sitting on the toilet and selling them to pornographic sites.

The permanence of the Internet is an issue that all of us will face- even toddlers. While it is tempting to share an embarrassing picture or parenting story about your child, consider the long term consequences. Even though that pic of your wee beastie covered only in mud is funny today, but ten or twenty years from now this nude photo could be fodder for cyberbullying or impact their chances for employment, running for public office, and more.

Sharing a snapshot on the Internet is a violation of a child’s right to privacy and typically there is no consent obtained. While it seems like a lot of legal mumbo jumbo, parents do need to be aware of the fact that a child hasn’t approved the images broadcast to the world. It should be a parent’s prerogative to protect their offspring from potential violations or regrets. Before posting a bubble bath montage, consider the ramifications or feelings of your child.

Another important aspect parents need to consider is the possibility of oversharing a child’s personal information. Photos are powerful tools to communicate a variety of data. Look carefully at all images to prevent location tracking, names of schools, class lists, extracurricular activities, places frequented, and more are not being broadcast to a worldwide audience. The wealth of personal details garnered from photos can make it easy to track down children or steal their identity.

Narcissism is a very real and negative behavior that can affect a child for years and years to come. Constantly snapping their picture or getting feedback from others about our children has the ability to subliminally send kids the message that the world revolves around them and they deserve to be the center of attention. Parents need to make sure they are keeping a child’s ego in check (especially for older toddlers and preschoolers) so our sons and daughters don’t grow up to overemphasize their self worth on social media comments or likes.

Finally, constantly taking photos or updating statuses can prevent a parent from living in the moment with their children. Living from behind a screen severely limits the face-to-face interaction and chances to develop interpersonal skills. This lack of communication can ultimately hinder a toddler’s vocabulary and, in-turn, his or her educational future.

What are your feelings about posting pictures of your children on social media sites like Facebook?

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