Big thanks to Google for Education for sponsoring this discussion about social media posts as part of the Forward Influence Network. All opinions and advice on what to share in social media posts are my own.
As a blogger, I know a little something-something about social media, websites, and privacy (or the lack thereof).
I have had my content and my pictures used inappropriately on the internet before. I also have many blogging friends who have gone through various ordeals with copyright and other infringements of their work.
Other friends have had their identities stolen online, had their computer get a virus, had someone block them out of their social media accounts and websites, and a whole lot more.
I try hard to twice about how and what I am sharing on my blog and on my social media channels, both publicly and privately.
Social media and the internet are amazing tools! They are neither good or bad inherently, as those characteristics are more defined by how you are using the media.
There is a lot of great, uplifting, spiritual, happy, and heart-warming content and support being spread on the internet every single day, and I love that! I hope in many ways that I am adding to that good with what I write and what I also share through my online usage and influence.
But, of course, there is also a lot of perversions and illegal activity that happens on the internet every day as well.
As a daily consumer and user of the internet and social media, and especially as a parent, I would like to suggest 7 things that parents and kids should not be doing when sharing online.
7 Things You Should NOT Put in Your Social Media Posts
1. Where You Are and Where You Are Not
Facebook has this neat feature called “Checking In” on their mobile apps. While it can be fun to let your friends know that you are at the gym getting your killer workout on, or checking out the hot new restaurant in town, the fact is that you are letting people know not only where you are at that moment, but also where you are not at – your home.
And if you are tagging your friend(s) who are with you, then all of their friends are also seeing this information, too.
While I hope most people limit who sees their latest updates and pictures to only friends (and not “public”), some people have added friends or followers who they do not actually know in real life, or only met them one or two times before “friending” them, and don’t really know that well. These individuals could be into inappropriate activities.
So, telling these “friends” where you are, and that you are not at home, opens up the possibility of your personal safety and personal property being threatened.
The same can be said about your travel plans.
Don’t keep updating statuses with the countdown to your upcoming trip, tweet that you are leaving home, or upload pictures to your Instagram of you leaving on the airplane.
It really is best to save your travelog of pictures until after you return home, despite how hard it may be to want to share that beautiful sunset right that moment. Strangers, or acquaintances, can rob your home while you are away much easier if they know you won’t be there to stop them.
Enjoy the vacation free from social media. It will still be there when you get back.
Lastly, avoid tagging your location on Instagram and other social platforms, especially if you are doing a live broadcast. Also, don’t tag the locations of your favorite parks or locations you visit either, as a stalker could start visiting your favorite haunts in order to find you.
2. Nude or Half-Dressed Pictures of Yourself or Your Kids
I won’t go too much into this, because I hope most understand why this is stupid, but don’t share nude or semi-nude pictures of yourself in social media posts or blogs or anywhere online EVER (including even to your husband or wife).
Things have a way of being seen or discovered later. It can lead to so many embarrassing moments, to bullying, to humiliation, to self-hate, and much more.
Just don’t do it.
I feel like most adults understand how stupid it is to share such half-dressed or undressed pictures (or even pictures showing too much cleavage or underwear) of themselves publicly, but many don’t seem to understand how inappropriate it is to share half-dressed or naked pictures of their children online as well.
While I think baby butts are adorable as well as bathtime photos and can commiserate with the potty training struggles, you have to know that pictures have a way of being shared.
Once your picture is posted, even if you have a private account, even if you only share with friends, it is out there and your friends, acquaintances, and followers to do whatever they want with your image of your child.
You can download or screenshot anything you come across on the internet.
Once a “friend” or follower does so, they can share that image wherever they would like (though doing so is illegal, it doesn’t mean it won’t or doesn’t happen. You always own the copyright to your photos.).
Seriously, think twice about the images you are uploading and sharing with your friends online of your kids.
Not only should you ask yourself if your son or daughter would appreciate such a picture being shared about them as they age, but what would a sick mind think about such a picture?
I once had a picture on my blog that kept bringing in search traffic from Google. As I looked at the search terms and words that were leading them to this particular post and picture, I saw an alarming trend: many of the searches included the word “naked” or “bathing suit” in them.
The picture was of my twin toddler daughters proudly displaying how they put on their own bathing suits, but had put them on inside out and backward! So funny and adorable, right? But, because they were backward, you could see their nipples.
I thought it was a funny picture, and captured that essence of growing toddler independence.
However, others apparently thought it was a great picture of “8 year old naked” or “6 year old girls swimsuit” (even if my children were neither of those ages). I decided to remove the picture from my blog, but unfortunately, it was still online for a couple of years before it was removed.
While you can never stop perverted people from objectively looking at images of your kids and yourself, you can do your part to at least screen the images you are sharing of your children and yourself first. Because no one wants to have their children exploited directly or indirectly.
If you allow your children to have social media accounts, make sure they understand all of these things! A “sexy” and seductive photo of your 15-year-old daughter on Instagram, while she might find flattering and beautiful, is likely only attracting the wrong sort of attention from people she does not know on Instagram (and Instagram is full of lurkers!).
Child pornography is a growing blithe of humanity. Do not fuel that flame by supplying undressed or partially undressed or overly suggestive photos of your babies, toddlers, preschoolers, or kindergartners. Or of yourself. And don’t let your tweens and teens do so either.
Keep the naked photos of your babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to yourself, keeping them securely in your family’s photo album or PC hard drive.
3. Personal Information
Identity theft is a growing epidemic. To protect yourself, you need to keep mum about certain aspects of your life online.
This means maybe not filling out where you work, when you began working, or what your position is at that company, or where that company is located.
Maybe this means you don’t list a hometown, or a current city.
Maybe this means you don’t list your birthday, or just list the month and day, but not the year.
Maybe it’s that you don’t list your maiden name, or your high school on your profiles.
Or, maybe it’s simply that you don’t specifically mention who your doctors, dentists, or lawyers are, or where you do your banking.
The point is, don’t share personal information freely!! While it’s nice that friends can easily check over a profile to find out (stalk) what you have been up to and where you work, etc, you are allowing friends privy information which can perhaps allow them to steal your identity, as they can more easily piece together the information, or call and pretend to be you.
It is this reason that I am SUPER leery of many seemingly benign questionnaire posts I see on Facebook, where they ask you fun questions like what is your favorite color, band, song, movie, who in your relationship is funnier, and so on.
Some of these, however, are actually asking much more personal information than I think you want to let people know… things like “have you ever been arrested?” or “have you ever been married or divorced?” and “share your family last names” and “share what year you got married” or even “what was the name of the street you grew up on.”
These questions are usually thrown in a mix of other questions so you don’t usually think about them as possible phishing questions, but they could be used as such if someone saw them on your profile!
Think twice about answering these questions and reposting these “games.”
Another thing to look out for is the unintentional sharing of personal information through photos.
Did you take a picture of your cute kids at the doctor’s office and not realize that you can also read the entire medical form in the background of the photo? Did you take a picture in the front yard and not realize you can read your car’s license plate number in the background of the photo? And when you took those cute back-to-school photos on your front doorstep, did you realize your house number is also in the picture?
This is information you likely don’t want publicly accessible but is often there if people try looking for it! Blur or black out sensitive information before sharing online!
Sensitive information like passwords, account numbers, ID numbers, social security numbers, pin numbers, passcodes, and so on should never be sent to others, including over “private” messages in Instagram, Facebook, or even regular text messaging, even if it is to your spouse or parents or best friends.
If you need such information from someone, give them a call, or ask them for it in person if possible.
In short, don’t be so specific online about personal information and think twice before sharing certain information. Make sure your kids are very aware of this as well and know to never disclose addresses or phone numbers with people they do not know either and don’t accidentally include personal information within the photos themselves.
4. Sharing Images and Information About Other People
Sometimes we get carried away in our conversations, and our oversharing, that we don’t stop and take a minute to think about what information or what pictures we are sharing about our friends, family, or acquaintances.
Some people do not want pictures of their children blasted all over your social media channels, or even pictures of themselves. They also may not want other people knowing about their drama, or where they work out, or where they do their shopping.
Ask your friends what they are okay with you sharing (especially if it’s pictures) about them online. I have often asked friends if it is okay if I mention them on my blog, or include pictures of them, but I often don’t mention their names at all, simply refer to them as “our friends.” This way they would not pull up in search results to my page.
Also, do NOT share someone else’s good news (pregnancy, baby births, engagements, wedding pictures, etc) before they share it first themselves!!
Don’t share other people’s personal business without their permission.
5. Air Your Grievances
Social media is great in that it gives you instant access to a lot of people, a lot of people who are your friends, who care about you, and who want to know what you think about this or that, or what you’ve been up to, and so on.
Sometimes we think it’s a safe place then to complain and share about our latest grievance against our employer, a co-worker, a teacher, a student, a random stranger, our spouse, our parents, or our kids.
But, it’s not a great place for such things.
Even if you prevent so-and-so from seeing it, word gets around, and screen captures happen, and copy and pasting happen, and the next thing you know, the person you’re complaining about hears about your grievance against them.
Chances are you didn’t really want that person to see it. Otherwise, you would have just contacted them directly and left it there.
These grievances, whether about a person or a company, have a way of reflecting very poorly on yourself more than on the person or company you are blasting.
If you need to vent, try the old paper and pen and a journal, or perhaps better yet, open up a word document, write about your beef, and then don’t save it, just delete it. You probably feel better, and no one will ever read your angry rant.
Or give your best friend and confidant a call who you can vent to for a few minutes and who will also likely help you calm down and come away from the cliff.
Because, even if your job sucks and your boss is a jerk-wad, chances are you still want to have a job and earn money. And chances are you will still need to see your in-laws at the next holiday gathering, so maybe don’t complain about them online if you don’t want to completely ruin your relationship.
Cyberbullying. Name calling. Trolls. Antagonists. Jerks.
Unfortunately, people on the internet like to rile up other people on the internet, and sometimes in real life too.
We seem to have lost the art of civil disagreements in today’s society, because as soon as someone states an opinion publicly on social media, negativity, devils’ advocates, and opposition is likely to follow.
As tweens and teens, negativity appears as cyberbullying, where multiple people gang up with negative, mean, hurtful, comments against another person, pointing out all the tiny flaws and insecurities that person may have and using them against them.
The world has plenty of hate in it, stand out by not being hateful online!
Be Internet Awesome
Google for Education has created a conversation about social media sharing and internet safety for kids with their new Be Internet Awesome campaign, Google’s FREE multifaceted program designed to teach kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety.
As part of this program, they have a website devoted to teaching kids about what is the best thing to do when faced with certain dilemmas, like learning how to not fall for fake, how to secure our digital stuff, and the importance of being kind.
These questions are presented in a fun online game format called “Interland.”
I had my 8-year-old twins play the game and watched them navigate through the five different levels and saw if they 1) knew the best responses and 2) knew what things meant.
As my twins are still young and haven’t been on the internet much unsupervised (and haven’t gone to public school) they didn’t know the best responses to many of the phishing questions, among others. Sometimes, one of my daughters chose the worst answer of the three choices.
As a parent, or as an educator, it is SO SO important we talk about these things to our children. They do not understand why they aren’t to share certain information, or click on certain links, or forward on certain emails or messages. They believe people at their word, especially people they suspect are “adults” or authority figures. They foolishly believe things they see on the internet.
That is unless they are taught and trained what to look for!
One of the things that Be Internet Awesome focuses a lot on for kids is spreading kindness, blocking haters, and sharing positivity online. Along with being safe on the internet and not giving away their parents’ credit card information, it is important for our youth to know that it is better to be kind than to be right or to be critical, especially of their fellow peers.
If you have children using the internet, purposefully take the time to sit down and go through this game and the Be Kind Curriculum with them, asking other questions and going over many of the awesome resources available for teachers (and soon parents). The internet is not going away but we can help ourselves and our kids Be Internet Awesome.
7. Sharing Images Without a Watermark
Okay, this one may be a bit more blog-owning specific, but I need to share this.
A while ago someone commented on my blog that their friend (who wasn’t a close friend apparently) on Facebook used an image of my twin daughters as newborns on his Facebook profile, claiming that they were his newborn twins girls .
He had apparently been lying about his wife being pregnant, and pregnant with twins, and ran out of time in the pregnancy window, so he stole an image (mine) of my daughters off the internet, claiming it as his own, and that his babies had finally arrived. My suspicious commenter then did a reverse google image search (I’m assuming) and found the picture from my blog, and told me about it.
I was able to track down the post and the person and have the copyrighted materials removed from their Facebook profile.
While no harm was actually done to me or my family, my daughters were being used in a scam. I don’t want that to happen.
To protect your images, especially of your family, adding something like a watermark or copyright text to the image is a great first step in preventing the images from being stolen from your Facebook, Instagram, or blog.
While of course most of these watermarks can be cropped out or erased with a bit of editing or photoshop, many amateur people are too lazy to do that and will just use a different picture instead of yours, as there are countless other images out there.
When we first started this blog is was a family update blog. All of those old posts and images are still up on this blog from the early days of our marriage to our life with new twins, and none of them have “WhatsUpFagans.com” written on the images.
I once found an image from my blog, of myself pregnant with my third child, a rather un-awesome picture too, on some wallpaper download site! I had to email the owner and ask them to take the image down, as they did not have the rights to share it, let alone offer it as a free wallpaper image for people to download!
Again, while it is illegal for people to use any image without proper credit and proper permission that is not their own, it doesn’t mean that people obey this law. Far too many people innocently think it is just okay to do a Google Image search and use whatever picture in whatever way they need.
This is not true!!
Don’t just grab an image from Google. All pictures are inherently copyrighted to the person who took the image, so permission must be given to use it, and then only under certain licenses.
To prevent people innocently, or not so innocently, stealing your images of you, your family, your home, your dog, your whatever, put your name or website on the image. You can adjust the transparency, and the size of the font to make it less “in your face” but putting it somewhere may be just enough to protect your images, so you don’t have to go through any legal ordeals.
I hope you take my advice into consideration going forward! You may disagree with me, and that’s fine. My hope is to always support individuals and families make the best, informed decisions they can for themselves.
May you share wiser and more intentionally than ever before and protect yourself and your loved ones better!
Be sure to check out these other great posts:
- 6 Rules for Kids Internet Usage
- Our Need for Transparency Online
- 24 Best Educational Apps and Websites
- Internet Safety for Kids
- Best Way to Store and Save Your Digital Photos and Files
- Google Home vs Amazon Echo – Which is right for your home?
- How to Know If You’re Cut Out to be a Blogger