social media and my kids' privacy

social media and my kids' privacy 1I just uploaded photos to my Facebook profile for the first time ever (besides my profile pic).

Before I did, I resized them so they wouldn't be huge (and steal-able).

You've probably also noticed that I re-size photos here on my blog. I also watermark them. And I don't use my girls' real names.

I can't decide if I'm paranoid or playing it safe.

Often, I look at Erin's STUNNING Flickr stream and I have a sudden urge to create one and to make it public, sharing the magic of our lives in full color and resolution.

Or I read Steph's posts and feel connected to her kids because I know each of their faces and names (not in a weird way, just because I've been reading her blog for...hmmm...over four years now?).

I get frustrated when I write sometimes because I want to say my girls' names instead of "my-4-year-old" or "my 1.5-year-old." [Maybe I will reveal their names someday. I go back-and-forth.].

social media and my kids' privacy 2I worry a little bit about "bad guys" (as my 4-year-old would say). I also worry a little bit that someone will steal my photos and put them on their blog or in an ad or in a magazine (because CLEARLY they're the best-looking kids in the world).

Mostly, however, I worry about their privacy. I think about when they grow up. Will they be pleased to see these stories here and their photos splashed across the Internet for all the world to see? (I actually think the answer is "YES" because I would have loved it if my mom had chronicled my childhood - what a gift to be able to read her most intimate thoughts about motherhood, about life, about ME!).

Still, I don't want to presume. I also am not sure if I would feel comfortable with someone being able to google my kid's first and last name...and come up with a thousand images.

On the other hand, this is a BRAVE NEW WORLD. It seems like most everyone 20 and younger puts photos and videos and stories all over the web, freely (even un-flattering pictures). So perhaps my girls won't mind at all. Maybe they'll cherish my Flickr account. Maybe they'll be glad I wrote about them (even with their real names), with discretion and tenderness.

Over four years of blogging and I still haven't figured this out.

Do you upload photos to Facebook (If so, do you resize them)? Do you have a Flickr account (If so, is it public)? Do you use your kids real names on your blog (and what led you to that decision)?

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49 comments on “social media and my kids' privacy”

  1. As the 49th comment, I wonder if I'm talking to myself here :) But here goes:

    I do put pics on FB, but no one can go to my FB from my blog, so that really doesn't worry me. All my friends on FB are real friends.

    I don't use Flickr.

    I do use my kids real names, just first names. Anybody hunting for our last name could probably find it though, with links from my home page. But honestly, my blog isn't "big time" at all. I know I have readership, but I don't feel famous. I bet it's mostly college friends and family.

    I'm a writer, of sorts. My kids (who are older) know I write. I think the family of a writer should expect to be written about. I'm circumspect, and I don't consider their dirty laundry my possession, but I consider the blog a record of our family's life, and they are part of that family. Besides, in their technological future, I imagine my piddly blog will be nothing compared to the online record of there lives that will eventually be available to anyone.

  2. So Stephanie I am returning to this post( that I read but never commented on- ugh) because of a recent comment on pictures I received over at my little blog.

    As always, your commentary is open, thought-provoking, insightful. I still remember having a conversation about this last summer and how much I valued your take on things. If someone really wants to find the info, I agree they probably can. At some point you just have to trust...

    I plan on using nicknames for the girls if I ever get around to sprucing up my "about" page with pictures and more details. I thought your point about not being able to google them is a valid one.

    P.S. Bug and Tiny respectively:) "bug" must be a popular one :) I considered "Bean" also but Tiny & The Bean... I just don't know about that.

    1. We've actually been seriously considering using the girls' names, after all. Tim is on the verge of readiness. I'm not quite there yet, but he may persuade me. ;)

  3. I originally had a blog meant only for my family, which I started not long before discovering I was expecting the first time. I used my son's real name, and probably even our last name at times, and would describe in detail the places we went (including links if the location had an online presence, like a local conservation area or park!). I never thought anything of was only my family reading, right? Then I started to get a few followers, and began feeling more & more uncomfortable with the level of transparency I had on that blog. I changed the privacy settings to make that blog accessible to only people with whom I shared a password. When I started this new blog, I gave my son a fake name, and try to avoid giving details that could help someone locate where we live. I don't worry so much about photos, to be honest. I figure that sure, someone across the country could copy an image that I post online, but someone could also get photos of my son when we're out together in public. How would I know if someone at the wading pool, the playground, or elsewhere was aiming their camera at my child rather than someone else? I guess I figured that I could live my life in complete paranoia, or I could focus on what I can control, put my fears into perspective, and let go of the rest.

    1. Oh, I do have a Facebook account, too, but have begun "weeding out" my friends list to those I actually have a true relationship with. I'm sure that there may have been hurt feelings as I've de-friended some people from high school, but I realized that while it was fun in the beginning to reconnect with someone I hadn't seen for 15 years, there was no real connection there. I wanted my FB account to be a place where I could connect with friends & family, where I could share photos and updates about my life, and didn't want to feel like I had to censor myself. So I have a very small number of friends, and have my privacy settings as tight as Facebook allows, but I feel comfortable sharing photos and little updates there now.

  4. Your questions is one that I used to deal with professionally when I was a computer crimes investigator and the only female detective (thus, I got every child-related case.) I don't hide my son's name but don't liberally use it all the time. I am also a foster mom and, by law, I cannot post their pictures (faces) or their names. I use my bio-son's picture very openly. Here is my professional opinion: yep, crazy gross people might steal their pictures. But it is statistically unlikely. Kids are overwhelmingly victimized in any capacity by those they know (and you trust.) Scary stories make the news because they are unusual. I (unfortunately) have viewed the computer contents of many a sick individual and never, not-once have I ever seen a picture that would appear to have been removed from a blog for nefarious purposes. Never. I have a public Flickr and use Facebook. However, I am more concerned about the developers/owners of Facebook using the information they take from your profile (legally and by your consent signing up) and sell to corporations than I am bad people doing things with my personal information. (that said, I only friend people I want to talk to. I don't care what people from HS think about me and I use the strictest privacy settings in Facebook they offer.)

    I am usually not a fan of people linking to their blog but I thought this was relevant...I recently did a 2 part series on online safety: Part 1 was for bloggers:

    Feel free to ask questions if you have them :)

  5. I used to be very liberal with videos, pictures, etc. on my blog. Mostly because when I started writing I only gave the web address to my family. I never dreamed actual strangers would read it. But now they do! I do name my children but lately I've refrained from posting videos or too many details about the exact location of our house, where my husband works, where my son goes to school, things like that.

    On Facebook my rule is that if I wouldn't show a picture to a complete stranger, then I won't post it.

    As far as writing stories about my children I always put myself in their position. I, like you, think I would have loved to have read a blog my mom wrote. EVEN if she wrote about challenges and other things that aren't all about smelling the roses. It's real and I think I would have appreciated the honesty and probably would have given her more credit than I already have.

    It really is a tricky new world we live in!

  6. What is funny to me about this post is that after I noticed that YOU don't post your kid's names, I thought about that and I decided to pull my son's name from ALL my blog posts (that was a chore, I assure you), and now I too just refer to him as Baby, little guy, etc... which really irks me, but I think it is better for now to have it be private. Especially since he IS a baby and is defenseless. Perhaps when he's older and knows his own name and stuff I will feel differently?
    I do try to remember to resize my photos but I often forget to do the watermark. My poor mother is sooo afraid of someone stealing our names and photos but... I kind of feel like my name is out there in so many places already... I guess I am lazy about that! :) I need to find a QUICK way to add a watermark - b/c I don't have a good photo editor.

  7. I'm really terrified of posting pictures of my son. Yes I have a blog, but it's not as popular. My facebook page only has people in my family and a couple of old friends. I'm really scared of what could be out there.

    I remember when I was pregnant with my son I joined the ivillage message boards August 2008 baby club. All of us got close and we had pictures of our babies on there. Turns out one member, Sarybary was a fake. Apparently one of the moms became suspicious of her (since Sarybary kept on making claims of having continuous miscarriages) This mom searched around, made some phone calls and googled - she found out the person stoled pictures from the internet claiming the babies as hers. Then we found out Sarabary was really a man. All of us were freaked out. I took down all the pictures I had of my son. I know a few of us left.

    One of the August board members summed up the story pretty good-

    I know most moms out there are legit. But it's sad that I really don't trust the internet because of that incidence. It's sad because I know the internet is really the only way to meet really nice moms of young toddlers and there's so much to learn and discover new friendships. But since that whole experience I'm way more reserved. I do use my sons name when I refer to him but his name is a common one. I'm still scared of posting pictures though.

  8. I'm in the same boat. I don't like sharing too much about or of them but sometimes I wonder if I'm worrying a little too much.

  9. I don't really upload any pictures to facebook...there are a couple from when I first opened a facebook account.

    I share pictures and names freely on my blog. I am "very involved/picky/need to know EVERYTHING" in their "real" life and for me thats more important than what's online.

    Occasionally my 10 year old will read my blog entries. Sometimes he loves the things I say...others he questions why anyone would want to read about our life if they don't know us... "mom, I don't get your blogging thing".

    Me sharing stories has never personally bothered him but soon I think there will be less posts about him..or I will have to ask before hitting the "post"button.

  10. When I started my blog, my husband wasn't crazy about even sharing photos of the kids. But that was SO HARD. He decided that as long as I didn't share names, it was okay. I share names on Facebook only because I have my settings so that just the friends I select can see the info. BUT... I know that anyone who REALLY wanted to figure out our info could. I guess I feel better at least trying to stay a bit private.

    In the end, with technology the way it is, I know there's NO protection but God's protection, and really... that's good enough for me. ;)

    1. It's tough to strike the right balance, isn't it? I want to trust in His protection, while also using my mind to make the best decisions that I can to protect my family.

  11. I use real names on facebook and on flickr. I block some pictures on flickr, and use all the privacy controls on facebook to make my pictures friends only. My pictures on flickr cannot be downloaded, I've blocked that as well. I have a livejournal account, but that is using a handle and my real name doesn't appear anywhere on that. I'm not that worried about safety, when my girls are older I will take into consideration how they want to appear online.

  12. First of all, happy belated birthday!! You will get to Texas before you know it. Hang in there!!

    Yes, I do upload photos to Facebook.
    No, I don't resize them. {Honestly, never thought about this and wouldn't know how to do it}
    Yes, I have a Flickr account, but really don't utilize it much. I'm pretty sure it's public.
    I do use my kids names on my blog and I don't really have any apprehension about it. The way I look at it is that the chances are much more likely that the bag guys are watching my child at school, their daycare, in the neighborhood than randomly looking for them on the internet. That actually scares me much more than thinking that they may find them on the internet. I really believe that if somebody is going to find you, they are going to find you. I can't worry about things out of my control, but instead put my trust in the Lord to keep us protected. I do think this is a very personal decision though and bloggers/moms have to do what they think is best! Have a wonderful weekend.

  13. I do use our girls first names. I thought long and hard about it, had many discussions with my hubby about it, and prayed about it. It basically came down to us not fearing others, but trusting God in going ahead and using the names.

  14. I do use real names, but I don't have our last name anywhere on our blog. All but a very few people who read my blog are people I know in real life, so they already know our names anyways. I use flickr, but most everything is friends and family due to some sketchy people favorite my photos in the past. If more people read my blog then I would probably start watermarking my photos, but for now it doesn't seem to be a problem. I don't post pictures on facebook because I don't like that facebook then claims to own your photos and can use them if they want, plus it is easier for people to steal on facebook then elsewhere. I typically just make a specific photo public on flickr and then post a link to it.

    1. That strikes me as being a great use of Flickr. Does Flickr have a policy that allows you to maintain full ownership of photos and does not allow the company to use the photos?

  15. You know, it's funny. Just the other night, it occured to me that I didn't know your kids names! I was totally stumped and thought it was my own fault, that I'd forgotten them and was a terrible person. HA! That actually makes me feel better. Anyway, of course, I do use my kids' real names. I started blogging in 2005 before they were born. And when they were born, the only people that read it were my mum (and even she doesn't read my blog that often to this day). So I started out using them and then, when more people showed up, including strangers, it was a bit late. I have started to water-mark photos recently. I was so no savvy about this stuff and it never occured to me until about three years into blogging.

  16. I'm hoping you don't mind if I chime in even though I don't have a blog. When I read your post, it seemed you were more concerned about their privacy than that right? If so, I think what you are doing with your blog is FANTASTIC and in no way embarrassing to them. You always post such loving and positive comments about the girls and I think they will cherish these posts when they get older. Especially since I became a mom, I've been wondering what my own mother went through when I was a little girl. I think when your girls have children, they will be able to relate to you so much more as a mother with your blog.

    I think I'm also just a nosy person. I love knowing what people name their kids, how they came up with their names, etc. I also like to have names with faces. However, I completely understand the safety issue too. I hope whatever decision you and Tim make brings you peace!

    PS - I too am curious what you'd do about the privacy/safety issue if you had a reality show.

  17. PS
    I'm SO glad not everyone thinks like me, though, as I love blogs loaded up with pictures and personal information LOL I just don't feel comfortable doing it myself anymore.

  18. Honestly, for me, I thought about safety first before I even thought of privacy. As you can see in my blog, I do not refer to my DD by her name either. I gave her a nickname "Little Bear" which stemmed from a nickname we have had for her since she was born. I don't want some stranger to see my talking about her online, see her in person and oh, i dunno...try to call her by her name and steal her away from me. They can see her, call her "Little Bear" and she wont even look. Perhaps instead of saying their ages, you could give them a nickname? Or some women call their children Baby/Child A (whether in alphabet order or the first letter of their age). Just a thought.... :)

  19. I have only recenlty decided to post pics of my children on my blog. I do not post their names, but I figure their pics can be out there from other places.
    For example, my husband and I do not do Facebook. But, he has gotten calls from his friends that his pics are on from high school. Other people are putting them on.
    Great topic and good timing for me.

  20. I think facebook is way more private than my blog. I have my restrictions so tight on there that no one can see anything on my profile, including my pictures, unless they are my friend. And I'm like others, all my friends on there are either real life friends or women I've met online that I really trust. I suppose you could be a scary crazy person ;) but I kind of doubt it!
    As for my blog, I do always resize my pictures down to 1024 at the most. This way, yes, they could be reused on the web, but not for anything else. Originally it was for uploading speed (since my camera takes 3MB pictures!), but I realized that it was smarter too. I did a watermark for awhile, but it took so long to add to every picture that I finally just quit. I guess I figure that if people really want to steal my pictures they will figure out a way.
    And I've had my blog for way longer than facebook so there are more pictures there and I only sometimes add the same ones to facebook.

    When I started my blog I didn't even know the whole blogosphere existed so I used our real names. I even had our last name as the URL. That's the reason I now have a hosted blog, so you can't find our last name. But I don't think I'm going to change our real first names because a) it would be a big pain to go through all my posts and do that, b) the boys names are common enough that it's not easily identifiable, c) I have removed all references to last names and I don't identify places as much as I can unless it's by state or major city that was visited.
    My sister-in-law wanted all references to her last name, her blog, and anything else that would be searchable removed. She's not in a super sensitive line of work, but she was afraid someone would search my blog, find her, and get to her blog, which is not related to her work and it would cause her problems. Personally I think she's a little paranoid as her blog can be found without mine, but that's her choice and I have to respect her wishes.
    I don't think my boys will mind too much what I write. I try not to be embarrassing, but I suppose as they get older I will write less about their private lives.
    And yes, I have a flickr account, but I don't use it for anything other than the Pioneer Woman's photography contests! ;)

  21. My name is splashed all over the web, thats fine. My daughter's blog name is her middle name, shortened into something pronounce-able (hence not her real name). So if someone goes searching for a random 'Cami' without the right last name.....I pray they find something. Also, I use my maiden name for everything concerning blogging/commenting......which is totally different from my daughter's. I also deleted my old blog since I am no longer keeping up with it, I dont want anyone going back looking for answers to their perverted questions.

    I think that with social media, there really are no boundaries anymore. Our lives are so open to everyone, they can almost write a book about it. Watermarking pictures only help protect the pictures, not the person. Anyone can identify my daughter if they've been reading my blog for one month. We can only double up our prayers....there is harm everywhere we turn (case in point - Arizona shooting). I think trusting in God, that he is the ultimate protector is enough for me. Other than that, I will continue to share our story, our loving pictures....and if someone has a problem with that, I am not scared of having a fight with a pure and sincere heart.

  22. So, for a while I called my girls "Divey" and "Bug" on the blog. I didn't do it for very long because I didn't feel like I was really talking about my girls. (Even though they were their real nicknames) plus it bugged me when I went to print the book of the blog, I had to find and replace all of the "Bug" with Jade. Sometimes it was actually bug - like the insect. I had to read through it multiple times before I printed it - just to be sure I didn't miss any.

    I am more careful about not showing or naming their schools or their schedules and I don't list the city where we live.

    I do upload pictures to facebook and I don't resize or watermark. - maybe I should. I also don't watermark on my blog. Again - because I want to print them in a book. But, maybe I need to rethink that too.

    1. Your reasoning makes perfect sense to me! I've always wanted to make my favorite blog posts into a book. I bet your books are absolutely beautiful. What company do you order from (and is it easy)?

  23. I'm more concerned with the words I post on line that are chronicled on the web...but I know if i had kids I'd feel the same way. I think by the time your girls are old enough to review your blogs the internet and how we interact will be even more intimate.

  24. I share lots of photos, on FB and on the blog, but I restricted my FB privacy settings, and on the blog I don't use our last name, plus mine's also not a 'real' blog. I would be interested in finding out how to resize/watermark photos though--I feel like it might make my blog load faster.

    Also, I agree with Erica, what are you gonna do if you get a tv show? Fake names? Oh--and I thought about that the other day, and apparently subconsciously kept thinking about it, because I dreamed your oldest started telling everyone at church that her name was Glenn. :)

    1. Tim made my watermark and I "place" it on all my photos in Photoshop. I also resize my photos in Photoshop. (I've heard that GIMP and Picnik are excellent [free] alternatives to Photoshop if you don't have that software).

      If the TV thing does happen, the girls' names will become public. Using "fake names" in real life would be a little overboard (and impossible). ;)

      P.S. Your dream made me laugh. Dreams can be crazy (speaking of which, have you seen the movie "Inception"?).

  25. Such a good topic. I'm still figuring this all out too. I'm a beginner in the public blog realm and watermarking when I'm not hasty. But I always still feel like I'm cracking the door open a peek to the 'who knows what' and I can't tell if that feels good or vulnerable. Sometimes it feels safe enough and other times it feels potentially daring. The online world is changing so fast it's hard to tell what it might look or be like in another few years from now. And whether the decisions we make now will be safe or silly then... I'd also love to hear about how you watermark. My process is beyond complicated and I'm thinking I'd be better off doing more research in that area for sure.

  26. I don't upload much to facebook, but I do get tagged (with my son) in photos...and what do you do with that? I'm not sure. On my blog I use his real name and share lots of photos...but my blog isn't a "real blog" I don't worry too much there. I was really paranoid when I started my blog that fans of my husband's band would find the blog, so I set up lots of restrictions so that the only way to access it is to have the actual URL.

    1. Are you absolutely certain that it can't be accessed without knowing the URL? I would think the only way to make it completely private would be to have it password protected. Because I just clicked on your name in your comment and got to it... lots of random people could find you this way and other ways. It looks pretty "real" to me!
      Not trying to be mean or rude at all, just thinking "out loud" as it may be.

    2. You can "remove tags" of photos on FB if you don't want them to display in your profile. I've done that on several occasions.

  27. This is such a rough subject! I am having a really hard time dealing with all of it myself. But I do think that I will go back and add a watermark. Thanks for the heads up! Also, I may consider changing the names...since it is still early enough to do so...hmmm...such a hard decision!

  28. I do put pictures and names online, and I tell the kids (to the degree that they'll understand). I wouldn't put anything up there that they said no to. I know they're young and don't necessarily fully understand, but I'm not putting up naked pictures or anything else that could ruin them down the road; just cute pictures and cute sayings that my family and friends can see. Granted, I don't have a blog and my facebook settings are pretty private, but I would do the same on a blog (although I might watermark in that case). I suppose my view is that we're in a world where there are corrupt people, and sometimes corrupt people are going to make poor choices. Hopefully those choices don't affect my family, but if they do hopefully I also did my part to make sure they can't do anything much worse than blow up a picture and call it their own. I completely respect the decisions of those like you who choose to keep a certain level of anonymity. My question is, if that television show picks you up, how do you plan on keeping that level of anonymity?

    1. It sounds like you are wise in your approach. I am the same way about more "private" photos. I am very careful about what KIND of pictures I publish. For example, I typically don't post bath photos, naked photos, detailed photos of our house or our address or the girls' bedrooms, etc.

      If a TV network picks us up our story (how crazy would that be?), we would start using the girls' names here on the blog as well. In many ways, it would be a relief. I'm so undecided on it...

  29. Since we already had a non-anonymous presence online after Noah's illness we felt ok being open, and hoped it would and will continue to bring awareness about his healing, for now, but it's all up for discussion, especially as my boys get older. I will always put them first and have a feeling my blog will phase out to just being all-me eventually.


  30. I do use my kids names and photos on Facebook, because I have to select my is a little more private, but on my blog, I don't use names...I do use normal sized photos though..I really should come up with a watermark to avoid their being stolen.

      1. Tim made my watermark (and I think it was super easy). Maybe I'll ask him to "guest-post" with a mini tutorial... :)

        1. OOOH please! I would love that right now (chiming in a month later). I know you guys don't have much going on;)
          Guess I'll have to look for that info elsewhere for now.

  31. I have a flickr stream, but mostly it's only the pictures I use on post. I do put pics of them on Facebook, but I'm primarily only friends with people I actually know, or women I *really* *really* trust online.

    I've recently started using my kids real names online.

    It's been something I've prayed about, and have faith that I'm making the right decision. if ever I feel it was the wrong move, I'll do my best to change/erase it all. Right?

    ugh. such a decision. such a fine line we sit on as "mommy bloggers".

    1. Truthfully, I have a hard time deciding who to "friend" on Facebook. After all, EVERYONE is on FB: cousins, grandparents, neighbors, coworkers, people from church, people from your childhood, old high school chums, college roommates, your parent's friends, favorite bloggers, etc. ;)

      After many years of indecision, My husband Tim recently decided to just start accepting most friend requests (from people he knows). The way he sees it is you either have to be REALLY selective (and have about 10 friends)...or you just have to "friend" a lot of people. He is taking the latter approach - keeping loose connections with lots of people.

      I've started to do the same thing...and I now have almost 400 friends. Not exactly a cozy, intimate number.

      Obviously, FB is still more intimate than blog (which is public in every sense of the word). But I still am on-the-fence about posting BIG photos and using real names.

    2. If you don't mind me asking...
      (1) How many friends do you have on FB?
      (2) What "criteria" do you use to decide who to friend?

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