On Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media, babies gurgle, toddlers squirm, preschoolers smile, tweens pose and teens rave—all courtesy of beaming parents wanting to share the latest and greatest doings of their offspring. “I see a wide variety ranging from nothing to everything online,” says Kim Luckabaugh, a Fairfax, Va., mother of three children between the ages of 11 and 14. “Some parents post cute stories on Facebook but only use their child's first initial. Others posts pictures with limited captioning. Still others post pictures and accounts using their child's name.”

“I’d say many parents think anything is fair game,” adds Jen Wilkin, who blogs about parenting. “They seem to view their child’s story as their property. I think these parents are well-meaning, but that they perhaps haven’t thought through the implications of their posting choices.”

A recent study by Posterista, a print site in the United Kingdom, found that whopping 94 percent of U.K. parents post their children’s images online. Of those surveyed, 64 percent uploaded images of their kids to social media sites three times or more a week and 21 percent did it at least three times per month. Only a mere 6 percent of respondents never posted photographs of their children on their social media pages. The study also found that pictures of newborns are uploaded to Facebook 57.9 minutes on average after their arrival into this world.

Luckabaugh is one of those parents. “I will take pictures of my kids and post to my Facebook page. I keep the GPS tagging ability turned off on my smartphone so when I do upload those pictures, precise locations are not available. However, I do call my child by his or her full name.” Luckabaugh refrains from referencing her kids on Twitter or Instagram because she has less control over distribution on those social media outlets.

“I used to put pictures on Facebook but I don’t even do that anymore, choosing instead to send photos directly to family members and friends,” says Rebecca Cusey, a managing editor at Patheos.com and the mother of two teens and a grade schooler. “I also don't tell stories about them to large groups (like Facebook), use their names, ages, schools, schedules, or anything that might identify them online.”

Wilkin, a mother of four teenagers, consults with her children before posting any information about them online. “I rarely post photos, and I make use of privacy settings. I don't post anything on my blog (anecdotes) without their permission. And even then, I make sure my motives for wanting to post the story are pure, and that my kids understand the implications of posting the story (someone might mention it to them or want to tease them),” she says. “I don’t post anything that singles them out for ridicule, i.e. something like ‘High school girls are full of drama.’”

Our Children, Their Future

Part of the concern with children’s images and stories being posted online is the potential for harm. Most parents seem to agree that the perceived risk in online postings of their children is less physical and more emotional.

“Honestly, I’m less concerned with the physical risks and more concerned with the emotional risk. I think if parents put themselves in their children's shoes and considered how those stories or photos might be perceived by their children as they get older, parents would post differently,” says Wilkin. “And I suspect the way parents would post if they viewed themselves as protectors rather than purveyors of their children's stories would go far toward limiting the physical risk, as they would be far more cautious in posting.”