If you’ve just had a baby there’s a whole host of must-dos to tick off. Registering the birth, sorting the nursery and learning how to look after an actual human for a start. But there’s one thing that some new parents are shunting right to the top of the to-do list and that’s making sure their little ones are digitally legit by setting up their own social media account.
ICYMI Rob Kardashian (brother of Kim, Khloe et al) and girlfriend Blac Chyna had a baby last Thursday. And though little Dream (yes, that’s her name) Renee Kardashian is only a few days old, the tiny tot already has her own Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter accounts.
And the newborn has already delivered her first post. A photo of herself being breastfed by mum Blac, captioned “Morning! it’s bonding time with mommy.”
It may seem like an obvious step for the littlest member of the Kardashian clan to be set up on social media, but baby K is by no means the only newborn with her own digital presence. According to a survey by Gerber.com close to 40% of mums in the US aged 18-34 created social media accounts for their baby before the child’s first birthday and another 7% made one before their little one’s second birthday.
While there are no similar stats about baby’s being set up on social media in the UK, an alternative survey revealed that the average parent will post 1,000 images of their first child by the time they’re five, according to a survey of 2,000 social media users by the charity The Parent Zone.
“The idea that parents are setting up their babies with a personal social media account is sadly a sign of our times,” explains psychologist Emma Kenny CEO of makeyourswitch.co.uk. “These days having a ‘personal brand’ is as common as eating your breakfast.”
While Instagram accounts for babies and young children are undeniably cute, some experts believe introducing little ones to a world of ‘likes’ could be opening them up to a digital world they didn’t sign up for.
“The problem with baby branding is that firstly you are sharing information about them without their permission and secondly you are creating a voice which isn’t actually theirs, and this means that people are getting to know you and not your baby,” explains Emma Kenny.
The most obvious danger is that of security. “Sharing pictures, media and social content online isn’t very safe statistically and with recent figures suggesting that grooming on line is at pandemic levels, protecting your child needs to be a parents priority,” continues Emma Kenny.
But could there actually be some positives about babies and young children having a digital presence. Writer Laura June believes there were some up sides to her daughter having a footprint on social media. Writing in the NYmag she explained that sharing pictures of her daughter lead to her forming relationships with other new parents,
“In those early days, which could be long and lonely, these relationships had real meaning,” she wrote of the relationships she developed with other parents online. “Because I was still not back to work, I had lost real contact with many of my professional acquaintances and friends, but the conversation we had over our mutual affection for my daughter held us together.”
Laura also believes that documenting her daughter’s life on social media also enabled family members to share in her daughter’s developmental milestones.
“We often talk about all of the downsides of this type of sharing, or of overdocumenting our children’s lives,” she continued. “But there was no downside for my daughter’s grandparents, who experienced her first giggles and crawls via texted video clips,” she wrote.
Author and mum Jack Monroe set up her son on social media for similar reasons. “My social media is all very public,” she explained. “I set one up specifically for friends and family to share photos of my son. It’s locked-down, only approved ‘friends’ can see it, and I feel more secure knowing it’s all there rather than on my social media where journalists trawl through it on a regular basis. It’s unorthodox, but works very well for us.”
Monroe went on to say that as her son is only seven-years-old, he doesn’t have access to the account. “It’s more like a secure storage unit for memories, [I’m] not planning on letting him loose on it any time soon!” she explains.
Setting up your baby or toddler with a Facebook profile can help if for example a parent feels their own followers may be growing tired of having their feeds clogged up with baby pictures. Creating a page for a baby an their own ‘fans’ not only keeps the parent’s own feed for other shares, but also means baby’s own page can be aimed purely at those who are interested in seeing pictures of their own development journey.
But the issue of consent needs consideration. Though its tempting to share every single moment of your baby’s little life, it is worth thinking ahead to when that baby becomes a teenager and isn’t quite so fond of that nude shot of them in the bath.
Babies can’t give their consent to having every detail of their life posted to social media and therefore it’s impossible to know what they will think about it all when they get older. Who knows what a six month old is going to be like when they’re a strapping 16-year-old? They might be super shy, they might be super private, but by creating their own social media profile for them when they’re little, you could be signing them up for something they might not want to be part of.
“As your child grows up, they may enjoy reading all the sweet comments from nice followers, but equally they will be open to online abuse and analysis and for a developing child this can be disastrous for self esteem,” explains Emma Kenny.
So what age should a child start taking control of his or her own account?
A recent survey revealed that over half of children use social media by the age of 10, despite the fact that Facebook’s guidelines specify a person has to be 13 years olds to open an account.
Chances are most of those children’s parents don’t check what their child is posting on Facebook – or perhaps don’t even know that they have it.
Instagram’s restrictions are slightly different; basically you need to be 13 to set up an account but the app doesn’t actually ask you for your age when you sign up. Plus most parents tend to send up the account on the child’s behalf, therefore avoiding the restrictions entirely.
Parent Zone’s editor, Eleanor Levy, believes there are some guidelines that need to be adhered to if parents are thinking of setting up social media profiles for their little ones.
“As Parent Zone’s research with Nominet showed, we love sharing images of our kids on social media, with mums and dads posting on average 11-20 images a month,” she says.
“It’s natural for parents to want to show off their children. I know I love seeing pictures of my nephew’s little girl in America. Even though we are thousands of miles apart, I’ve watched her grow up on Facebook and it made me feel connected to her when we physically met for the first time earlier this year.”
But you do have to be careful, particularly once your child gets older.
“Our research showed that over a quarter of parents (28%) admitted they had never thought to check if their child minded them uploading images of them online. That may not be bad parenting and it’s unlikely to harm their child, but it’s certainly bad manners,” Eleanor Levy continues.
“We’ve already had a teenager in Austria suing her parents for sharing images on social media, and French lawyers have warned parents they could be violating that country’s privacy laws by doing the same.
“At the very least, be aware that as your child grows up, they may not want their formative years exposed in such a public way. Taking down a social media account they never asked for is a small price to pay for maintaining a good relationship with them.”
Would you set up your baby with a social media profile? Let us know @YahooStyleUK