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Many parents, in their enthusiasm and excitement, share information and photos of their new baby often within hours of their birth. Parents are eager to spread the good news. But can these online posts be harmful to your children in the future

A study, "What Parents Should Share: Child Privacy in the Age of Social Media and the Pediatrician's Role," was conducted by a pediatrician and a lawyer and is the result of an extensive review of medical and legal literature on this topic. What they found is that the amount of information that parents place in the “digital universe” is staggering. Parents are creating their child’s digital footprint, without realizing that this information follows them into adulthood. The authors encourage pediatricians to provide parents healthy guidelines about online disclosures related to their children.

Research shows that one third of all babies in the United States appear online, through various social media formats, within the first 24 hours of their life. Furthermore, 92 percent of two year olds have a social media presence. Parents take strict measures to protect their children’s online activity but often don’t realize that their own disclosures may present hazards to their children both today and in the future.  

Social media offers many benefits to parents. It provides a forum for sharing of concerns, being part of a parenting community, receiving support and simply sharing life’s joys and challenges. But it can also pose unanticipated risks. The authors caution that information shared can be stolen or repeatedly re-shared, without a parent’s knowledge, potentially landing the in hands of pedophiles or identify thieves. 

Additionally your child might one day want to have control over their online identity and what information is out there for others to retrieve. The authors note that the first children of social media are now entering adulthood, college, and the job market. "Untangling the parent's right to share his or her own story and the child's right to enter adulthood free to create his or her own digital footprint is a daunting task."

The authors recommend that parents familiarize themselves with the privacy policies of sites in which they post and to use privacy settings. They also encourage parents to post anonymously when posting about any behavioral challenges regarding their child, suggest giving their child veto power over any information or photos shared and to never post photos of their child in any state of undress or provide your child’s actual location.

See the following articles from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for additional information:

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