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Safer Internet Centre

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Sharenting: how am I adding to my child’s digital footprint?

Childnet, a partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre, give advice for parents and carers, looking at the type of information you might put online about your child, how this can be hidden in photos, and how you are contributing to their digital footprint.

Every day, our The Childnet Education Team are in schools across the country talking to children, young people, teachers and parents about their experiences online and how to stay safe on the internet. In this series of blogs we look to answer some of the most frequently asked questions from these sessions.

How am I contributing to my child’s digital footprint?

You start building your child’s digital footprint as soon as you post about them online.

A digital footprint is the mark that you leave behind when using the internet and can shape your online reputation, and the way that other people see you. Digital footprints are made up of the content you create, post and share; as well as the content that others post, and share, with you and about you.

A digital footprint can be positive or negative and affect how people see you now or in the future. Use our simple checklist to help manage and maintain your online reputation and the online reputation of your child.

What is personal information? And how can it be hidden in photos?

It is your choice what photos, videos or information you share about your child online, however it’s worth thinking about the type of information that you may be sharing within this.

A lot of personal information may be hidden in photos and videos, this includes:

  • School Name: shown by the school uniform worn in pictures
  • Home address: shown by house numbers or street names in the background of photos
  • Date of birth: either in the background of pictures or via birth announcements and birthdays.
  • Phone numbers: shown on documents in the background of pictures or on the collar of a family pet

Before posting a photo online check it for any personal information that you may be inadvertently sharing. Personal information is like a jigsaw puzzle, where each piece of information you share can be added together and once you look at the bigger picture you may actually be sharing more about your child than you would have wished to.

How do my privacy settings impact this?

Most social networking sites have privacy settings to help you manage the content you share and who you share it with. You can decide if you want your posts to be shared with all your online followers, a specific list of followers or friends, or the public. Have a look at the social media guides from the UK Safer Internet Centre to learn about how to set up privacy settings on your accounts.

Keep in mind that your friends’ content and their settings can also affect you and your child’s digital footprint. Remember you’re only as private as your most public friend, so consider who you have accepted on your accounts, and whether you would want them to see all of the pictures and posts that you put up.

It is also worth noting that even with privacy settings in place people who have you as a contact on social media could still screenshot or save things that you have posted.

How can I have a conversation about posting online?

It’s important to have a conversation with your child about the way that you use the internet, talk about the great things that you can do online, the way in which they can create a positive digital footprint, and the way in which others can contribute to this.

A family agreement can be a great way to decide what information and images you will share online as a family, this allows each family member to make promises about their online behaviour and conduct. Creating a family agreement can also be a great way to talk about the way in which you are posting about your children, but also to discuss how they are posting about you.