Original Story by Gretchen Brown
Courtney Sullivan has one rule for posting photos of her 17-month-old son on social media: would 13-year-old me be embarrassed by a similar photo?
“In other words, no photos or stories about things like diaper explosions or eating dog food,” she said. “They’re normal parts of childhood, but not something they’ll appreciate seeing about themselves later.”
Sites like Facebook and Instagram are an easy way for new parents to share photos with friends and family. And they’re often well-utilized.
If you’ve got a bunch of Facebook friends in their 20s and 30s, there’s a good chance your feed is a conglomeration of sonogram images and baby photos labeled by month.
Some parents have been criticized for what and how much they post about their children, especially so-called “mommy bloggers,” who share photos of their children for profit.
Social media sites like Facebook have entered their teen years. That means there’s now an entire generation of kids whose lives have been documented online since birth.
Eighth grader Sonia Bokhari couldn’t wait to join social media sites when she turned 13 several months ago.
But when she did, she found all of the embarrassing moments from her childhood, displayed for all to see. A letter to the tooth fairy. Photos of her crying hysterically as a toddler.
“I thought I was just beginning my public online life, when in fact there were hundreds of pictures and stories of me that would live on the internet forever, whether I wanted it to be or not, and I didn’t have control over it,” she wrote in March for Fast Company. “I was furious; I felt betrayed and lied to.”
Bokhari talked it over with her mom, who agreed to ask her permission before future posts.
Pressure to share
If you’re not a parent, you might think your Facebook friends post about their kids haphazardly and without much thought, hoping for likes and comments like the rest of us.
In fact, it’s often the opposite.
Priya Kumar, a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park, has been studying so-called “sharenting” for six years.
In a study of 22 new mothers, she found that most were comfortable posting milestone photos of their child, and were careful not to post anything “embarrassing.”
“What stood out to me was that the women were really thoughtful in how they posed this question,” Kumar said. “A lot of them, they had the child, and then realized, ‘Do I want to be putting my child out there? How are they going to be feeling about this when they grow up?’”