How Much Do You Share About Your Kids Online?

Tracy Odell

My Cutie Pies
I have a lot of friends and family who are scared to post photos of their kids online. I'm sure they think I'm reckless for plastering the Internet with photos of my children.

There's a sense of danger around sharing information about kids -- We are all scared, but not sure exactly what we're scared of. There's that lurking fear of a kidnapper seeing a photo online, then tracking down our kids. Or, that a pedophile will use our photo in inappropriate ways. But, really, how rational are these fears?

In an interview with the New York Times last fall Prof. David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, explained that while there is a possibility the pedophiles could lift your photos and use them inappropriately, it's not something he has encountered.  There's enough child pornography readily available, that they don't need the cute photos of our kids.

And as for our children being kidnapped by a stranger who sees their photo... Those abductions by strangers that we see on the TV news are actually extremely rare - estimated to be around 115 per year in this country. And that's all abductions - not ones specifically related to any sort of online activity. Of course, we'd love to see that number be zero and be able to keep all our kids safe, all of the time, but in the grand scheme of things that parents should worry about, kidnapping probably shouldn't rank as highly as it does.

The facts and research all point to the conclusion that showing off our kids online is not primarily a safety concern -- it's a decision we need to make based on our personal comfort levels and boundaries. How much of our lives are we willing to broadcast to the world, knowing that strangers may read it or see it?

Here's my litmus test for deciding what I'm willing to share about my kids online:

I relate it back to the "real world" because we're all much more comfortable with setting boundaries in the offline world. I imagine I'm in the grocery store with my kids.

First of all, my children aren't wearing masks, so anyone we cross paths with in the store can see what they look like.  Therefore, I'm ok with strangers online seeing what my kids look like, too.

But, they are fully clothed. I don't take my kids out in public naked, so therefore I don't post photos of them in the buff.

 A stranger in the grocery store approaches us and says - "Oh, your kids are so cute. How old are they?"

I'd answer this question. I'd tell a stranger my kids are 3 and 10 months without a second thought. Therefore, I'd also post this information online.

The stranger in the grocery store can also easily make the assumption that we live nearby. Therefore, I'm ok posting the neighborhood I live in.

But, if the stranger asked me for my address -- no way. Or where my kids go to school, or what our last name is --  I wouldn't share this information with them either. They could probably find it, because let's face it, so little of our lives are truly private, but I'm not going to make it easy for them.

That's how I set my boundaries. How do you decide what you share or don't share about your kids online?



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