A new study1 has revealed that over half (54%) of Brits choose to hide the identity of their children when posting on social media, with nearly one in ten (9%) opting to blur or obscure their child’s face, whilst 45% choose not to post images of their children at all.
It’s no surprise that posting photos of children online, otherwise known as ‘Sharenting’², is a highly debated topic, and something that parents feel passionate about; this is evidenced by high profile cases such as three year old Wren and her mum Jacquelyn making headlines last year³. Concerned mums on TikTok spoke out about alleged safeguarding issues involving the mother/daughter duo, amassing more than 70 million views on the hashtag #savewren and sparking conversations around the world.
The research was commissioned by High Speed Training, a provider of online training courses in child safeguarding. The poll asked more than 2,000 UK parents and grandparents about their attitudes towards posting information and images of their children online.
Nearly half of those surveyed (45%) said that they would not share any information about their children or grandchildren online, however, of those who do post about their kids, nearly a third (31%) feel comfortable sharing their name or age, whilst one in ten (10%) are happy to share their child’s school, and a further 5% would share medical details.
When it comes to safeguarding and protecting children online, the impact of social media is an important issue for parents. High Speed Training analysed YouGov profiles data⁴, which shows that two fifths (44%) of UK parents named social media as the most important issue in modern society, ahead of climate change and immigration. Parents of children aged 16 or under are 20% more likely than non parents to name the topic as an important issue.
Despite this, over half (51%) of parents with children under 16 said that they don’t worry about privacy when using the internet, compared to 30% of the general population. Parents (60%) are also less likely than the general public (70%) to believe that it is their responsibility (parents’) for child safeguarding online.
Additionally, nearly three in five (58%) parents think that they should not have to ask permission from their child before posting about them online, compared to over a quarter (26%) who think that permission should be obtained first.
Parents clearly have concerns surrounding posting images and information of their children online, the survey revealed that the greatest concern was of strangers knowing information about the child (36%), followed by considerations surrounding the child’s privacy (33%) and worries about putting the child at risk (29%).
Dr Richard Anderson, head of learning and development at High Speed Training, says: “What each parent chooses to share, or not to share about their child comes down to the personal preference of the individuals involved, but parents should be aware of the risks that can come with sharing information online, and that’s why we’ve shared our expert tips on safeguarding your children online:
Think of the digital footprint
“Before posting images of your children, it’s a good idea to first consider what information you’d be comfortable with a stranger in the street knowing, especially if you have a social media account that is public. Once a photo is online, it could stay there indefinitely – would your child be happy with that in 5, 10 or 15 years time? You should think about how large of a digital footprint you’re comfortable creating for your child before they have the ability to provide their informed consent.”
Use a private account
“If you’re planning to share information about your child, we would recommend changing your social media account to private and checking through your followers to make sure you’re happy with who can view the information. We would also recommend that you establish some ground rules with friends and family for what can and can’t be shared. It is worth remembering though, that once online you may lose complete control of where, how and why your child’s image or information is used.
Consent is key
“If your child is old enough to understand, we would also recommend asking their consent before posting online. If your child is too young to provide consent, then consider whether it may be best to be cautious with the information you share before they are able to give permission. Is it something they might be unhappy with being online when they’re older? If so, it might be best to refrain from sharing online. Also, if your child says they’re happy but then years later decides they don’t want those images online, you should respect their wishes and privacy and delete them.
“It’s important to have open communication with your children on these topics, ensure they understand the potential risks of posting on social media, ask what they’ve been learning about the topic at school and ensure that they feel comfortable having a conversation about it with you. Having these conversations from a young age will also encourage your child to have a healthy relationship with social media as they get older and potentially create their own accounts.”
Don’t share images of other people’s children
“If you’re a parent of school-aged children, you’ll likely have been asked by teachers to not share images and videos of events such as assemblies and nativity shows online. Unless you have the consent of the parents of every child in your photo/video, you shouldn’t be posting them on social media.”
Consider the types of images you’re sharing
“If you are someone who wants to share photographs of your children online, try to be mindful of the types of images you’re sharing online. For example, avoid sharing images of your child in the bath, or in a nappy/not fully dressed. Whilst these images are completely innocent and wholesome family moments, it’s best to keep them private as you simply never know who can access them online.”
Dr. Anderson adds: “Whilst the government continues working on the long-awaited Online Safety Bill, it will be interesting to see how conversations on the topic develop. As online safeguarding experts, we’re backing the bill and are keen to see it pushed through parliament, to ensure that safeguarding children is the top priority when it comes to social media use.”
To learn more about the safeguarding courses High Speed Training offers and to read more on what parents think about sharing information about their children online, visit: https://www.highspeedtraining.co.uk/hub/safeguarding-your-children-online/
Survey of 2,014 UK parents and grandparents ran between 20/01/23 and 23/01/23, run by Censuswide
YouGov Profiles based on GB audience nat rep and parents view (parents with kids under 16) in survey 22/01/2023