Parenthood is full of share-worthy moments. Whether you’re pregnant and documenting your progress via Facebook, or tweeting about the first time Mason finally used the big-boy potty, it’s become normal for proud moms and dads to broadcast heartfelt moments to their digital circle of friends.
Just think about sharing information today versus several years ago: With current technology, we have the ability to keep up with loved ones who live in different countries, or pose parenting questions by simply clicking a few keys. As of 2012, Facebook boasted over a billion users worldwide. Meanwhile, Twitter sees over 175 million tweets sent daily—and follower rates of image-sharing services like Instagram and Pinterest are gaining new members every day: Earlier this year, Instagram reported 100 million users. But this open digital environment creates some tension. One common concern for many tech-inundated parents is that of privacy—or lack thereof. What information is too sensitive to post on Facebook? What tidbits are best left untweeted? Here, we’ve listed a few factors parents should be mindful of when posting to the continually-morphing web:
Back to the basics
It can be difficult to not share loads of fun facts about your cute kids. But posting your child’s full name, along with his birthday and hometown, can be potentially dangerous, says Paul Stephens, director of Policy and Advocacy at Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit that raises awareness of how consumers’ privacy is affected by technology. These seemingly simple facts about your family can greatly increase the threat of identity theft, he says.
Tip: Stephens recommends not posting your or your child’s birthday online at all. But if you do, it’s better to include just the month and the day, not the year.
Hide and seek
Don’t post anything about where you or your family may be, particularly if it establishes patterns. For instance, there’s no need to tweet about weekly Tuesday night soccer practices, or discuss your child’s after-school schedule. Stephens warns that child predators could use these habitual locations to their advantage. The same rules apply to travel: While Facebook friends may want to see pictures of your family trip to the Grand Canyon, post images after you’ve returned home, rather than while you’re still on vacation—you don’t want the world knowing there’s no one at your house.
Tip: Limit the number of apps on your smartphone that have access to your whereabouts. Both Facebook and Twitter allow users to switch off location-based features.
The Name Game
Occasionally, parents opt to withhold their child’s name from the Internet entirely—which isn’t a bad idea, says Marian Merritt, an Internet Safety Advocate for Norton, a company that creates antivirus software. While every family is different, some parents use nicknames or the first letter of their kids’ names when referring to them on social media sites, she says—something you should be mindful of.
Tip: Before posting photos and children’s names to Facebook during a playdate or birthday party, Merritt advises parents to talk to one another: Make sure everyone understands and respects each other’s wishes when it comes to a child’s digital presence.
Remember that on social media sites, your information is only as secure as your friends’ accounts, says Stephens. For example, if someone you know loses her smartphone, and has apps like Facebook and Twitter, her data—as well as her friends’ data—can be breached.
A rule of thumb? Even if you have checked (and double-checked) your privacy settings, it’s important to regularly revisit them—and never assume you’re totally off the grid. “Don’t post anything on the Internet that you wouldn’t want on the front page of a newspaper,” Stephens says.