Why Now Is a Great Time to Revisit Your Family’s Social Media Policy

family social media policy"
family social media policy
Source: Canva
Source: Canva

As a mother who loves taking pictures of her kiddos, the holiday season seems to present one photo opportunity after the next. Each year I snap dozens of portraits of our little ones in pumpkin patches, and capture countless candids with their grandparents and cousins throughout the holidays. My instinct in the moment is often to share these pictures immediately to my social feeds—but lately I’ve been pausing before posting.

Over the years my partner and I have had lots of conversations about where our family values around social media lie: what we like, what we don’t, what we’d like to share, and what we’d rather keep private. Those conversations became even more important to us when our children were born. Suddenly, we weren’t only advocating for and making choices for ourselves, but for them as well.

If, like us, you’re a parent who uses social media, or have children who are beginning to engage on social platforms too, now could be the perfect time to reassess (or create!) your family’s social media policy.

What is a Family Social Media Policy?

In the simplest terms, a family social media policy lays out the guidelines or rules your family agrees to abide by within the sphere of social media platforms. This will look different for every family. Consider your personal priorities and beliefs, concerns about online engagement and time use, and hopes for how they might benefit from using the platforms to connect with others.

Some families have minimal concerns regarding online sharing and may choose to have few or no restrictions regarding content they film, photograph, and share. Other parents may choose to ask their children before sharing images of them online, or decide to limit the types of images or content they share. Still others might choose to focus their family’s social media strategy on other factors surrounding engagement. For example, determine what sites they’re comfortable using, how much time they spend on each app or whether they’ll only use these platforms to engage with friends and families, or build community with strangers too.

family social media policy
Source: Canva

Reasons to Consider a Family Social Media Policy

Does every family need an “official” family social media policy written down? Not at all. Is it a good idea to at least talk about how you share content and engage online with your partner and children—especially if you have young kids and teens? Absolutely.

Digital footprints

Having come of age in the early days of MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter (hello, elder Millennials!), my partner and I know a digital footprint can last for decades (at least!). And while our social media use waned as we aged, we absolutely have returned to sharing a little more now that we have children.

Despite the pull to share every cute picture of our kids, we also have privacy concerns and want to do everything we can to protect our little ones’ identity as they grow up—would you want your toddler bathtub Kodak moments immortalized online for all to see? And so we try to be intentional with our posts, especially regarding bathtub photos or other potentially embarrassing images or videos.

Safety concerns and geotagging

It’s a terrible reality as a parent, but there are plenty of reasons to not want to have a digital image trail that reveals your child’s location to the world through sneaky geotagging app features. And many parents don’t even realize they’re sharing this information at the time unless they’ve edited their privacy settings to remove this feature. Additionally, you’ll want to avoid identifying information in pictures—like a street address on a house or teacher information in a back-to-school photo.

While the risk of child abduction is “highly uncommon,” many parents still have concerns. Ultimately, if you don’t know who has access to this information, it’s a good idea to think twice about sharing it. 

Worries about unauthorized image use

While sites like Instagram don’t allow for the unauthorized commercial use of images by other parties, it is currently legal to embed public posts as website content without the consent of the account holder. This means that if your cute family beach photo is searchable online, a digital outlet could easily make it publicly available (alongside whatever content they chose) without ever asking permission. While you can always remove the image from social media sites after the fact, there’s still the chance the image was archived, captured via screenshot, or otherwise digitally copied by someone else. Thankfully, some sites like Instagram have a privacy setting that allows you to block embeds from publishers, but you definitely have to know you want to change that setting first and then set about tracking it down.  

Ultimately, if you really want to protect your privacy, it might be best to set your preferences to private on social media feeds. 

Risky online behavior

For parents with teens and preteens at home, there’s another element to online presence to consider too: how to educate your child about appropriate online behavior while maintaining a social media presence. 

Teens today face a host of problems that many of us did not grow up with, from cyber bullying, sexting, and the ability to access potentially inappropriate and even dangerous content right at their fingertips. Even more wholesome aspects of digital life can be problematic if there aren’t healthy limits in place that allow for engagement with other elements of a well-rounded childhood experience like school, friends, and extracurriculars. 

Creating Your Family Social Media Policy

Like so many other aspects of life, choosing how much input you allow your children in a certain situation will vary from family to family. When considering what to share and with whom, my personal view is the moment my daughter or son request I no longer share images of them, I will respect that request. Until then, I try to look at anything I share through the lens of their future experience (i.e. might they some day object to a photo or be embarrassed by a video I shared). 

Many celebrities and even private individuals choose to obscure their children’s faces when sharing family photos until they’re old enough to consent. Ultimately, every family has to choose what feels right to them, and respect each individual’s wishes. 

Which is why it’s also good practice to check with friends and family before publicly sharing photos of their kids—and letting them know your own family’s social media policy (this goes for grandparents sharing, too!)

Source: Canva

As your children get older, slowly bring them into the process of determining how you can engage productively and proactively with social media platforms as part of your daily routine. 

For many, social media might be about connecting with family and friends. For others, especially those who use social platforms to read news and explore more adult topics, having much needed conversations about what and how we consume when we’re engaging on these sites is incredibly important. 

As parents, it can be helpful to remember that social media platforms will often “feed” us (or our teens) new content based on what that site’s algorithm thinks we want to see—and is also influenced by what and how often we post. Talking candidly about what this means with our children can help them to understand why they’re seeing certain posts and how to consume that content thoughtfully. 

These considerations are especially important for teens when they engage in ways that aren’t productive or good for their mental health. In the end, this type of family “policy” will look different for every family—whether it means being engaged in how your teen shows up online, or perhaps even deciding to delay smartphone use or social platform engagement altogether—so take time to check in with yourself and see what feels right.

Remember, sharing and being social should be fun!

Even with the occasional mom concern popping up, I still believe that with some basic guidelines our family can maintain an online presence and continue to build community in safe, enjoyable, and uplifting ways—for the simple reason that it brings us joy.

I’ll be the first to admit one of my favorite pastimes is browsing Instagram for sourdough recipes, enjoying a few funny cat videos, and planning my next garden project while sipping a cup of tea. While I’m more of a scroller than a poster these days, with a solid social media plan in place and occasional check-ins with my partner and kids, I have fewer doubts when I do share. Now when I want to spontaneously post a cute pumpkin patch pic from our most recent family outing, I know exactly where we stand, and what everyone is comfortable sharing.