A Grandparent’s Guide to Social Media

Think before you post.

The stereotypical grandparent used to be portrayed as an overzealous, proud grandparent pulling out a wallet and displaying twenty pictures of their grandchild. Today’s grandparent is more likely to post pictures on social media-Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and whatever else has popped up since I last checked.

Even before I had a grandchild, I loved seeing the Facebook posts of my friends’ grandchildren. It brought me joy to see sweet, happy kids and the pleasure grandchildren seemed to bring. Facebook can be depressing with all the political upheaval currently going on and although I do stay informed of world events, I also refuse to allow myself to become too mired in the muck. I’d much rather see pictures of kids, dogs and videos of cats!

1. Get Permission from Your Grandchild’s Parents

What is a grandparent’s role and responsibility in allowing pictures of his or her grandchild on social media? The first step is to discuss the wishes of your grandchild’s parents, and then respect their limits. Because I write a weekly blog about grandparenting, Callister has had his picture on my blog almost every week since he was born nine months ago. I always ask permission from his parents for every picture I post, and they’ve been very generous with allowing me to use his pictures.

I’ve also posted many pictures of him on my personal Facebook page because I am one of those obnoxious grandmothers that thinks (and is correct) their grandchild is perfectly adorable. Again, before I post a picture I clear it with one of his parents. I do have to admit, a couple times I was carried away in a deluge of cuteness and posted a picture without asking, then had to seek forgiveness and retroactive permission.

2. Be Considerate

Be very considerate about not stealing the parents’ thunder. I know one grandparent whose adult child banned them from posting any grandchildren pictures on any social media after the grandparent announced the pregnancy and posted an ultrasound picture without consent. The expectant couple was deprived of being the first to announce their own pregnancy. Be sensitive, be considerate and if you can’t be either of those, at least be cautious. The parents are the gatekeepers to your grandchild; don’t misbehave and risk being exiled from the magical land of grandchildren.

3. Remember That Social Media is Permanent

Because social media is a fairly new phenomenon for many of us (it wasn’t around at all when I was raising my children), we may not be aware of the permanence of our postings.  When you post something on the internet you are creating a trail that has the potential of never being undone. You are, in essence, creating a social media “brand” for your grandchild before they’re old enough to grant permission.

You may think it’s cute to post a picture of your grandchild in the tub or throwing a tantrum but try to envision how they may view that years from now when they’re an awkward 13-year-old. You are creating an online trail of your grandchild; make sure it’s one they won’t be embarrassed about as a teen or an adult. Always keep the long-term consequences in mind.

4. Don’t Post Naked Photos

Along those lines, I would avoid naked photos. I know it’s cute when they are one or two running around naked, but should that really be posted online? Maybe I’m too paranoid but there are some sick people out there that could use your grandchild’s picture as “personal materials.” You get my drift?

My kids ran around naked occasionally as most toddlers do, but it was years before social media so their nudity was limited to a brief glimpse on home movies. Once again, I’m very thankful for the absence of social media when I was a young parent.

5. Identifying Your Location

To continue with my paranoia, I’m careful not to post a picture whose location is identifiable while my grandson and I are still there. In my wild imagination I can envision someone seeing a cute baby who is alone with a vulnerable older woman and think it’s a great opportunity for nefarious (excited to find an opportunity to use one of my favorite words!) activity. Is this a rational fear? No, I’ve probably been watching too many episodes of Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit, but I’ve decided when it comes to my grandchild’s safety I’m going to err on the side of caution.

6. Privacy Settings

This brings up privacy settings on Facebook. My adult kids had to tutor me a little on this when I first got on Facebook, but it’s fairly simple. You can change your settings for different posts and before I post a picture of my grandson I make sure I have my privacy setting on “friends only” so random strangers (hopefully) won’t see them. Although now that more information is coming out about how Facebook mishandled the personal data of two billion people, it’s wise to assume anything you post may be public information.

I’m far from an expert on social media so keep in mind these are strictly my thoughts and opinions on the subject. Social media can be a wonderful tool but it can also be invasive and a privacy thief. Use it wisely. As with many issues related to grandparenting, communication with the grandchild’s parents is paramount. Depending on their instructions, you may have to delay posting the latest picture of your perfect grandchild until you’ve been given the green light.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Have you discussed your grandchild’s social media presence with their parents? Do you post pictures of your grandchildren on social media sites?

Categories: Grand Life