It’s quite unbelievable that when out shopping the other week I recognised the child of someone I used to go to school with, purely by the fact I’d seen so many pictures of them on Facebook.
This occurrence was quite timely, because a few days later Ofcom’s 2017 Communications Market Report revealed that parents today are completely divided on whether it’s right to post pictures of children on social media.
Ofcom said that just over half of parents it surveyed said they avoided what it termed ‘sharenting’ altogether because of a desire to protect the privacy of their children.
Yet in spite of this, the average child has had 1,500 pictures of themselves posted online by the time they’re five years old and 50% of people in the Ofcom survey, based on 1000 adults, said they post pictures of their children on socal media sites at least once a month.
Personally, I feel that number is a severe underestimate, especially when you consider the amount of people who share pictures of their child’s development months before it is even born.
But since the rise of social media sites like Instagram and Facebook, the trend of ‘sharenting’ has become increasingly controversial, with celebrities like Katie Price and Voctoria Beckham coming under fire for posting pictures of their young children.
A 'Marmite' issue?
The topic has become almost like a ‘Marmite’ issue. Views on whether or not it’s right are split right down the middle.
Ofcom’s consumer group director Lindsey Fussell told the BBC: “Parents are really divided about whether it’s sensible to share photos of their children online,” she said.
“The good news is that of those who do share, over 80% feel very confident about restricting who can see those photos - to friends and family, for example.”
In light of the survey’s findings, the NSPCC has urged parents to think twice about sharing images of their child on the internet, and to carefully consider the issues involved.
A spokesperson said: “Each time a photo or video is uploaded, it creates a digital footprint of a child which can follow them into adult life. It is always important to ask a child for their permission before posting photos or videos of them.
“For very young children, think about whether they would be happy for you to post or if it will embarrass them. If you aren’t sure, it’s best not to post,” she added.
Last year an 18-year-old Austrian woman started legal action to sue her parents to force them to remove childhood pictures of her from Facebook.
She was reported to have said: “‘They knew no shame and no limits - they didn’t care if I was sitting on the toilet or lying naked in the cot, every moment was photographed and made public.”
An issue of pride?
Some parents may argue they are proud of their children and see no reason not to share family photos with friends who perhaps don’t see them that often.
Baby nutritionist Annabel Karmel said: “It’s a shame that some parents now feel they can’t share their family pics for fear of their privacy being threatened. Sharing photos can build a sense of community and it’s a way to connect with friends, families and other parents, particularly when families are so often dispersed across the world.
"You simply have to adopt a bit of common sense with what is appropriate and be mindful of the type of information you are revealing."
But writer Celia Walden said: “I get that Facebook is a digital photo album for friends and family, but I would never allow a picture of my daughter to be posted on any other form of social media. Because I loathe and detest it, for one thing, but also because she’s got a lifetime of being subjected to other people’s gaze and other people’s judgement in front of her. And the idea of that breaks my heart.”