In the recent years, as social media continues to change the way we use and interpret media, some parents have started hashtagging their kids in their posts. Sure there is a certain “usefulness” about the practice, for example, family and friends could search and find the pictures easily. A hashtag means Aunty Margaret who lives in Canada can look up pictures of your kids. A hashtag means you never lose your photos even if your house burns to the ground and your phone, camera and computer are gone. That digital footprint is up in cyberspace and you can retrieve it.
But in this age of online predation, something as innocent as a proud mama sharing her baby’s cute photos could easily take on a more sinister spin. A hashtag also means that anyone with any intention could search for the handle. Cue the creeps crawling up your spine.
Social media is meant to be fun and harmless. If only the real world worked that way. It’s one of the many downsides of social media and sharing information. We live in an age of over sharing. We know what people halfway around the world are having for lunch. In the age of “sharenting” – sharing and parenting – mums and dads need to be aware and on their guard.
According to a report by UK publication, Independent, by the age of two, 90 per cent of children already have a presence on social media. Last year, a campaign called “Kids for Privacy” was launched in the hopes of encouraging parents to think before hashtagging. The campaign highlighted more than a hundred hashtags such as #pottytraining and #bathtime which could have potentially sensitive content. Sure it sounds pretty obvious when you’re reading an article like this. But when you’re in the moment and you’ve just taken the most adorable picture ever and the urge to share it on social media takes hold, it might not occur to you what the potential ramifications of such an innocent objective as to share a cute image might cause.
Another thing for parents to be aware of is the geolocation tool on social media. It’s fun to “check in” in places, and if you’re a parent and a lot of your time is spent shuttling between toddler classes, work, home and the supermarket, the fact that you made it to a cool café is worth celebrating and nowadays it’s just so normal to just want to share that information with a few clicks. The thing about geolocations is, do you really want to literally lead people to you and your kids? In the online world, the more you share, the more you lose control. No matter what you set your privacy settings to, you can’t control what other people might be doing. It’s why certain things go viral on the internet, mostly without there ever any intention of going in search for fame or notoriety.
If you really love the idea of hashtagging your kids, then perhaps consider taking on some basic safety measures to start off. The most obvious thing is to think through the content of the images before posting. Also against popular trend, refrain from creating a hashtag containing your kids’ names. Also, go through your list of followers and makesure that you know the people who are following your account. Lastly, have a proper read-through of your privacy settings and think about what kind of settings you want to have.
Janice Zheng is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. Born and raised in Singapore, she has also lived in Vietnam, China and Australia. She has written and edited across a variety of genres including hard news, feature articles, technical and specifications writing and press releases. Her coverage of a 2009 Australian oil spill disaster and its impact on the marine environment earned her a nomination to the Professional Online Writers Guild. In 2013, her family moved to China for her husband’s work. She joined the expatriate women’s volunteer-based society and wrote prolifically for its print publications and contributed to other expatriate magazines. Since her return to Australia, Janice has turned to writing and blogging about parenthood.