What’s the harm in posting about our kids on social media?

There's a thin line between sharing and oversharing when it comes to documenting our children's lives online.

Mom and grandma taking picture of baby with phones.
@mister_pretty_pictures via Twenty20

Can you think of a more irresistibly photogenic creature than your dimpled baby triumphantly hoisting a plump fist full of birthday cake? Or any subject more closeup-ready than your unsteady toddler taking their first steps?

So with a camera always just a few swipes away, these are the kind of moments many of us capture without a thought. And often, without a second thought, we take the extra minute to share these memories online. After all, what parent could resist?


This instinct is a normal one—and one that existed well before the dawn of the internet. "Remember Grandma's brag books? Parents and grandparents always feel the need to share," says Pamela B. Rutledge, PhD, Director at Media Psychology Research Center.

Sharing gives us a way of appreciating or savoring the experience with the bonus of getting social validation, Rutledge says. "Sharing can also be a way of normalizing one's experience as a parent — feeling like you are doing things the right way; reaffirming your identity as a parent."

However, even though we're not alone in our desire to race to the virtual rooftops and shout the most adorable aspects of our kids' lives (one survey found that 30% of parents post a photo or video of their child at least once a day), this urge directly conflicts with the cautionary tales we hear about the internet's darkest corners. Tougher still can be pinpointing which risks are real and which are internet lore (remember the Momo challenge hoax?).

As parents, the world, and particularly the internet, can feel like a scary place. But we can't write the web off as wholly sinister — nor can we pretend like it's a panacea. Because right now, we simply don't know.

Millennial parents are essentially pioneers in this sweeping gray area that is parenting online. There is no roadmap. The best we can do is evaluate the information we do have and use it to make choices that align with our comfort level.

"It's complex. We're the first generation of parents to raise kids online, and our kids are the first generation to grow up under the watchful eyes of their parents' newsfeed," says Stacey Steinberg, a law professor at the University of Florida and author of the upcoming book Growing Up Shared. "So it's this really unique generation that we're trying to navigate, and there's not a lot of data to drive our decision-making."

We've been able to document our own lives online for the past 15 years or so. For many parents today, that's only about half our lives or less. But our children's social media presence may have pre-dated their births.

One study by internet security firm AVG found that 92 percent of children in the U.S. have an online presence before the age of two, and nearly a quarter of kids made their online debut before they entered the world thanks to ultrasound photos posted by their parents. And it's important to note that this research came out in 2010. For context, since then, Instagram has grown by an estimated million users to a billion. That's potentially a lot more sonogram photos.

What's the harm in sharing?

Because the internet is forever shape-shifting and we have yet to see the long-term effects of our sharing right now, the line between sharing and oversharing is a moving target. Navigating this chasm starts with understanding the tangible risks involved with sharing online, so let's break those down. The risks tend to fall into two categories:

1. Virtual theft

When you share something about your child online, you don't have full control over who has access to that information or how they'll use it. Anything you share online has the potential to be viewed by anyone anywhere in the world, warns Rebecca Herold, an information security, privacy, and compliance consultant and CEO at The Privacy Professor. "As long as one other person online has access to your child's photo or video, you are trusting that they are not going to take that photo and share it in ways that you would not want them to," she says.

Probably the least threatening manifestation of this is that companies are constantly collecting information on all of us — including our children — so they can better target us with advertisements. At the most nefarious end of the spectrum, sometimes innocent photos of children are stolen to be used for illicit purposes.

Then, of course, there's identity theft, which is becoming a real threat thanks to the sheer volume of information available online. In 2018, the bank Barclay's forecasted that parents sharing personal information about their children online will account for two-thirds of identity fraud by 2030.

"Babies are common targets because their identities can be criminally used for many years before your child reaches an age where they will be applying for a loan, credit card, etc, and subsequently discover they've been an identity theft victim," Herold says.

According to Barclay's the pieces of information that make your child most vulnerable to identity fraud are: full name, home address, and birthdate. Chances are, you aren't straight up Tweeting your social security number, but you may be revealing more than you think with an online birth announcement that details your child's full name and birthdate or a geotagged photo that gives away your home address.

2. Your child's digital legacy

Another important consideration for parents is their child's digital footprint, Steinberg says. Parents may be posting for years, shaping their child's digital reputation, before their child fully grasps the concept of online sharing and how to construct their own identities publicly.

When kids are old enough, they may feel exposed since these images were posted without consent and want to take back control of their images, Rutledge says. "One difficult issue is the boundary between parent and child. Parents share what their kids do as a reflection of their role as a parent. In many cases, this is about the parent more than the child," she explains. "At the same time, these are the child's images that are being posted and shared." She adds that by posting images, not only do parents make them searchable, but they also might unintentionally giving another party permission to reuse them.

Share smarter

"While there are concerns, I'm in no way suggesting parents stop sharing altogether," Steinberg says. "I'm suggesting they make well-informed choices with regards to what they share."

Take a look at the privacy policies on the social media platforms you use. "Review the site's terms and conditions, sometimes hidden within the site's privacy notice/policy, to understand the specific types of data that is collected when you post," Herold says.

While you're at it, check the settings on your devices. "Find out how much information is being saved on that device and how much is being shared," says Denise Lisi DeRosa, an online safety expert and founder of Cyber Sensible. "You want to make sure you're not always sharing your exact location, which could be your home address."

And there are certain things experts advise not posting at all:

  • Pictures of your child in any state of undress. Images like this could make your child a target for predators. "Maybe your child is wrapped in a towel or the towel is half off. That's a cute photo to share with Grandma — not with Facebook," DeRosa says.
  • Identifying details. This includes location information that might give away where you live or where your child attends school.
  • Something that may be embarrassing later. This one is totally subjective, but consider how your child might feel in the future. "Even though it's cute now, it might not be cute in five or 10 years when their friends see it," DeRosa says. Aired grievances may also not age well. Think about whether or not this is something you'd share publicly offline. "I wouldn't walk into a movie theater and stand up and shout, 'I'm trying to potty train, does anybody have suggestions?'"

Give your kids a say in sharing

As soon as your children are old enough — around 5 or 6 — engage them in conversations about what you share, and as they get older, give them veto power over what information is shared, Steinberg says.

Having a conversation is always a good idea, but it has to be age-appropriate, Rutledge adds. "A 4-year-old is not going to understand what it means to have images public," she says. "They might understand the intention of putting a picture where Grandma can see it, but they won't understand that, in five years, someone may find a picture and tease them about it. The conversation should continue periodically."

One place to start might be right after you take a photo. As you look at that picture, talk to your child about where it might be going. If you post it and someone leaves a comment, let them read it and give them a chance to respond, Steinberg says. Inviting your child to look at social media with you gives them training wheels before they ride solo with their own accounts. It's an opportunity for you to model courtesy and responsible online behavior.

And as you share some of the consequences of sharing online, you can also share the positives with your children. "It's really important for parents to talk about [the] many benefits of sharing. It helps us connect with family and friends who live far away. It helps us build our communities and online relationships and networks, Steinberg says. "There's a lot of power in our narrative when we share our vulnerabilities. So many good things come from sharing online, and I never want to silence a parent's voice."

Ultimately, you have to weigh the risks and benefits and make the decision that feels right for you and your family, whether that means going analog with your photo-sharing and filling the plastic-coated pages of an old-school brag book or documenting your child's daily life — or falling somewhere in between — is up to you.

"Just as we have regular conversations about how we feed our kids and discipline our kids, we need to have more regular conversations about how we share about our kids," she says. "There are more questions than there are answers, so this isn't about judging, it's about trying to move the conversation forward."

This story originally appeared on Apparently.

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    When you ask any two mamas to share their experience with breastfeeding, you are bound to get very unique answers. That's because while the act of breastfeeding is both wonderful and natural, it also comes with a learning curve for both mothers and babies.

    In some cases, breastfeeding won't be the right path for everyone. But with the right tools, resources and social support systems, we can make progress toward the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to continue breastfeeding through the first year of a child's life. After all, breastfeeding helps nourish infants, protects them against illnesses, develops their immune systems and more. Not to mention that mothers who breastfeed experience reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

    With National Breastfeeding Awareness Month this month, it's a great time for mamas (and expectant mamas!) to gather the supplies that will support their feeding journey—whether it looks like exclusively breastfeeding, pumping or combo-feeding.

    Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

    Designed for regular use, this double electric breast pump allows mamas to customize the cycle and vacuum settings that work for them. The 100% SoftShape™ silicone shields on this pump form-fit to a wide range of breast shapes and sizes—which means more comfortable, more efficient pumping. And every pump comes with two complete Dr. Brown's Options+ bottles, giving you everything you need to go from pumping to feeding.

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    Breast Milk Storage Bags

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    Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump with Options+™ Bottle & Bag

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    Dr. Brown’s® Manual Breast Pump

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    Options+™ Anti-Colic Baby Bottle

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    7 hacks for simplifying after-school snacks

    Prepping delicious and nutritious foods shouldn't take all day.

    When you're in the middle of the school year and managing a family, each minute of time becomes very precious. Sometimes that means healthy food choices in the household can take a backseat. But don't stress it, mama. Prepping delicious and nutritious choices for the kids to munch on doesn't need to take all day.

    Remember to keep it fun, simple and interactive! Here are tips for simplifying after-school snacks once and for all:

    1. Prep snacks on Sunday

    This simple trick can make the rest of the week a breeze. Tupperware is your friend here, you can even write different days of the week on each container to give the kids a little surprise every day. I really like storage with compartments for snack prep. Personally, I slice apples, carrots or cucumbers to pair with almond butter and hummus—all great to grab and go for when you're out all day and need some fresh variety.

    2. When in doubt, go for fruit

    Fruit is always a quick and easy option. I suggest blueberries, clementine oranges, apples, frozen grapes or even unsweetened apple sauce and dried fruit, like mixed fruit. It's fun to put together a fruit salad, too. Simply cut up all the fruit options and let the kids decide how they'd like to compile. Prepped fruit is also great to have on hand for smoothies, especially when it's been sitting in the fridge for a few days—throw it in the blender with some nut milk and voila.

    3. Pair snacks with a dip

    Hummus is a great dip to keep on hand with lots of versatility or you can grab a yogurt-based dip. Easy and healthy dippers include pre-sliced veggies, baby carrots and multigrain tortilla chips. Plain hummus is a great way to introduce seasonings and spices too—shake a little turmeric, add fresh basil and you'd be surprised what your kids will take to.

    4. Have high-protein options readily available

    Snacks with high protein, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs and jerky will fuel kids for hours. One of my favorites is a turkey stick, which is a fun addition to the hummus platter. Just slice into bite-sized pieces. I love cottage cheese because it can go savory or sweet, use as a dip with your prepped veggies, or drizzle pure maple syrup and sprinkle with berries.

    5. Always keep the pantry stocked

    Monthly deliveries keeps the pantry updated without a trip to grocery store. Many kids are big fans of popcorn, granola and pretzels. We like to DIY our own snack packs with a little popcorn, pretzels, nuts and whatever else is in the pantry so there's always something different!

    6. Make cracker tartines

    I love the idea of replicating popular restaurant dishes for kids. Here are some of my favorite snack-sized tartines using any crisp bread, or favorite flat cracker of your choice as the base. There are no rules and kids love adding toppings and finding new combinations they love.

    • Avocado crackers: Use a cracker and then layer with thinly sliced avocado, a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese topped with roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds.
    • Tacos: The base for this is a black bean spread—just drain a can of black beans, rinse and place into a wide bowl. With a fork or potato masher, lightly smush the beans until chunky. Spread onto your cracker and top with tomato, cheddar cheese and black olives. Try out a dollop of super mild salsa or some lime zest to introduce some new flavor profiles.
    • A play on PB&J: Smear peanut butter, almond or a favorite sun butter on the cracker. I like to get a mix it up a bit and put fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries and tiny diced apples) and a little bit of dried fruit sprinkled on top.

    7. Pre-make smoothie pops

    The easy part about meal prep is the prep itself, but knowing exactly how much to make ahead is tricky. Freeze a smoothie in popsicle molds to have a healthy treat ready-to-go snack. They're super simple to make: Add any fruit (I like apples, berries, pineapples and mangoes) and veggies (carrots, steamed beet and wilted kale) to a blender with your favorite nut milk until you have consistency just a bit thinner than a smoothie. Pour into your trusty reusable popsicle molds and then into the freezer to make an ice pop so good they could eat them for breakfast.

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    15 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


    Stomp Racers

    As longtime fans of Stomp Rockets, we're pretty excited about their latest launch–Stomp Racers. Honestly, the thrill of sending things flying through the air never gets old. Parents and kids alike can spend hours launching these kid-powered cars which take off via a stompable pad and hose.

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    Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

    Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

    Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)

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    Secret Agent play set

    Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

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    Stepping Stones

    Stepping-stones

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    Sand play set

    B. toys Wagon & Beach Playset - Wavy-Wagon Red

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    Sensory play set

    kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

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    Vintage scooter balance bike

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    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Foam pogo stick

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    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

    $16.99

    Dumptruck 

    green-toys-dump-truck

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

    $22

    Hopper ball

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    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

    $14.99

    Pull-along ducks

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    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $16.99

    Rocking chair seesaw

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    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

    $79.99

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

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    Meadow ring toss game

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    Mini golf set

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    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    Even 5 hours of screen time per day is OK for school-aged kids, says new study

    Researchers found screen time contributes to stronger peer relationships and had no effect on depression and anxiety. So maybe it isn't as bad as we thought?

    MoMo Productions/Getty Images

    If you've internalized some parental guilt about your own child's screen time usage, you're not alone. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to significant amounts of screen time in children leads to an increased risk of depression and behavioral issues, poor sleep and obesity, among other outcomes. Knowing all this can mean you're swallowing a big gulp of guilt every time you unlock the iPad or turn on the TV for your kiddo.

    But is screen time really that bad? New research says maybe not. A study published in September 2021 of 12,000 9- and 10-year-olds found that even when school-aged kids spend up to 5 hours per day on screens (watching TV, texting or playing video games), it doesn't appear to be that harmful to their mental health.

    Researchers found no association between screen usage and depression or anxiety in children at this age.

    In fact, kids who had more access to screen time tended to have more friends and stronger peer relationships, most likely thanks to the social nature of video gaming, social media and texting.


    The correlations between screen time and children's health

    But those big social benefits come with a caveat. The researchers also noted that kids who used screens more frequently were in fact more likely to have attention problems, impacted sleep, poorer academic performance and were more likely to show aggressive behavior.

    Without a randomized controlled trial, it's hard to nail down these effects as being caused directly by screens. The study's authors analyzed data from a nationwide study known as the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD Study), the largest long-term study of brain development and children's health in the country. They relied on self-reported levels of screen time from both children and adults (it's funny to note that those reported numbers differed slightly depending on who was asked… ).

    It's important to remember that these outcomes are just correlations—not causations. "We can't say screen time causes the symptoms; instead, maybe more aggressive children are given screen devices as an attempt to distract them and calm their behavior," says Katie Paulich, lead author of the study and a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Also worth noting is that a child's socioeconomic status has a 2.5-times-bigger impact on behavior than screens.

    Weighing the benefits with the risks will be up to you as the parent, who knows your child best. And because we live in a digital world, screens are here to stay, meaning parents often have little choice in the matter. It's impossible to say whether recreational screen time is fully "good" or "bad" for kids. It's maybe both.

    "When looking at the strength of the correlations, we see only very modest associations," says Paulich. "That is, any association between screen time and the various outcomes, whether good or bad, is so small it's unlikely to be important at a clinical level." It's all just part of the overall picture.

    A novel look at screen time in adolescents

    The researchers cite a lack of studies examining the relationship between screen time and health outcomes in this specific early-adolescence age group, which is one of the reasons why this study is so groundbreaking. The findings don't apply to younger children—or older adolescents, who may be starting to go through puberty.

    Screen time guidelines do exist for toddlers up to older kids, but up to 1.5 hours per day seems unattainable for many young adolescents, who often have their own smartphones and laptops, or at least regular access to one.

    Of course, more research is needed, but that's where this study can be helpful. The ABCD study will follow the 12,000 participants for another 10 years, following up with annual check-ins. It'll be interesting to see how the findings change over time: Will depression and anxiety as a result of screen time be more prevalent as kids age? We'll have to wait and see.

    The bottom line? Parents should still be the gatekeepers of their child's screen time in terms of access and age-appropriateness, but, "our early research suggests lengthy time on screen is not likely to yield dire consequences," says Paulich.

    Children's health

    Mom and gorilla bond over their babies at the zoo: ‘It was so beautiful’

    The new mothers shared a special moment at a Boston zoo.

    Franklin Park Zoo/YouTube

    Motherhood knows no bounds.

    When Kiki the gorilla spotted a new mom and baby visiting her habitat at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, she immediately took a liking to the pair. Emmelina Austin held her five-week-old son Canyon to the glass so Kiki could get a better look.

    The gorilla spent nearly five minutes happily pointing and staring at baby Canyon.


    Emmelina's husband captured the sweet moment on his phone, in a video that's now gone viral.

    Mother shares unique maternal bond with gorilla (FULL VIDEO) www.youtube.com

    Why was Kiki so interested in her tiny visitor? Possibly because Kiki's a new mom herself. Her fifth baby, Pablo, was born in October.

    Near the end of the video, Kiki scooped up Pablo and held him close. The new moms held their baby boys to the glass and shared a special moment together: just a couple of mothers, showing off their little ones.

    "When I walked into the zoo that day, I never could've imagined that we would have had that experience," Austin told ABC News. "It was so beautiful, and we walked out just over the moon."

    We can't get enough of the sweet exchange. There's something special about sharing your little one with the world. Mothers of all ages, races–and it turns out, species–understand.

    Our favorite viral mama + kid videos