Should children ban their parents from social media?


Parents from Shanghai to Chicago are proudly putting pictures of their children on social media.

It might be taken for granted - but no previous generation of children will have had the experience of having their entire childhoods intensively and publicly documented in this way.

In the UK, the average parent with a social media account has posted 1,498 photos of their child online by their fifth birthday, according to a survey by domain name company, Nominet.

This might be a global phenomenon for proud parents - but what about the children, who will have been too young to have any choice in the matter.

But the very first people to have had some of their childhood pictures posted online are now reaching adulthood. And they are not always happy about their formative years being preserved in digital aspic.

"When I was 12 or 13 I started realising there were things [on Facebook] that I thought were a bit embarrassing," said 16-year-old Lucy, from Newcastle, whose dad has been posting pictures of her on the social networking site since she was seven.

"I asked him to take them down and he was happy to, but he didn't quite understand why. If I had been asked [at the time], do you want these photos out there for all to see, I would've probably said no."

'De-tagging' her past

Even those who were pleased to be on social media as children are less sure about it now. Dana Hurley, 20, from east London, said that as an 11-year-old she was happy for her parents to post photos of her on Facebook.

"At the time it was exciting... I liked attention. Now it's kind of weird because you look back and think, this was for everyone to see," she said.

She has de-tagged herself from most of her childhood photos online, meaning that the pictures do not show up on her profile, though they are still on the site.

Parents may not realise it, but by posting photos and videos of their children online, they are creating an identity for their children that might not be welcomed, according to psychologist Dr Arthur Cassidy, who specialises in social media.

"One of the major arguments is, do parents have the right to assume control over their child's identity?" he said. "They believe, this is our child, we own their identity. But children believe they can change and control their identity online."

Changing perspectives

Lucy is a good example. She said she had asked her dad to de-tag her from "stuff that doesn't necessarily represent who I am now."

"It was never a big issue or anything bad, just stuff I preferred people didn't see," she said. "There were photos my dad posted of me in Year 6 and Year 7 [aged 11 and 12]. Back then I was quiet and shy, I didn't really have lots of friends.

"That's not necessarily where I am now, and it's not something I'd want to remember every time I log on to Facebook... It isn't the best memories, which is the way you'd like to portray yourself on social media."

But Francesca Ivaldi, 21, from south London, said growing up online had its upsides - such as staying in touch with family around the world and creating an easy-to-access record of happy memories. Her Facebook profile includes pictures of her from the age of 13 onwards.

"My family are across the globe," she said. "It's a nice way to document things. You could see it as, that's amazing, I've got this entire backlog. You can look back on it and have a really nice timeline.