To Share or Not to Share? That is the question.

At the heart of our debate topic this week were issues of privacy, consent and online sharing as two teams mused over the topic of whether openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids. Team Agree started their opening statement with a bang by discussing the dangers of ignorance and permanence of children’s digital footprints as created by adults. Team Disagree argued for the reality of modern childhood experiences including the realm of social media. Their opening statement focused on safety as paramount and urged parents and educators to post based on being well-informed and with the appropriate intentions.

I have been thinking a lot about this topic; even prior to our course discussion. I continuously go back and forth between what is best for children: to share or not to share. I can certainly see the benefits and potential dangers of both sides of this argument. I really enjoyed how my classmate Melinda discussed that there isn’t necessarily and right or wrong answer but that you can do it right both ways.

Source – But which way should you choose?

I have thought a lot about how this would work as a parent who decides not to share photos of their children. Even though I value and respect this decision entirely, I can appreciate how challenging it must be to continuously advocate for your child to not have their photo shared on social media simply based on how increasingly entrenched social media is becoming in daily life. I constantly see photos of children at sports events, birthday parties and and other family events. Do you drop your child off at every birthday party and ask for photos not to be shared of them or have to police soccer games for parents potentially including your child in their photos? This seems like a really difficult job.

I also think of many parents who begin sharing photos of their child through pregnancy photos because they are excited about their new family member. In most of these instances, I would assume those people are not thinking about how their post is impacting their child’s privacy or beginning the life-long journey of digital citizenship before they are even born.

There are certainly many warning stories out there that side with Team Agree such as this story about an Austrian teen suing her parents for violating her privacy rights, the dangers of posting online and this article which indicates parents are responsible for protecting images of their children. In Data Collection, Political Candidate Edition, author Bill Fitzgerald reflects on how children’s information is being collected and stored in a digital paper trail like never before. These are but a few examples. However, the many of these potentially dangerous or personally harmful instances, the root problem can be explained away by this argument: “Each and every time we connect, we engage in some way that creates our online identity, our profile, our persona. And it happens automatically and too often without a lot of forethought about the identity that will be created” (ISTE EdTek White Paper, 2015). When we think about adults posting children’s images and data on their behalf, this issue becomes far more grand. As Buchanan et. al (2017) argue in this article, “Digital footprints can be an asset or a liability depending upon how well they are managed”. As adults — parents and educators — we need to do a better job of how young people’s online identity is managed so that their digital footprint becomes an asset.

Interestingly, Team Agree and Team Disagree overlapped in their selected readings in the area that mattered most: children’s safety and privacy protection. Both teams shared articles that highlighted the importance of thinking BEFORE sharing. Which makes sense because we ask constantly ask kids to think before they act or think before they post, so in all fairness, parents and educators should have the same question reflected back on them. In fact, in an opinion piece, Give Your Children a Chance at Privacy, author Amy Webb, urges adults to be more informed; a suggestion made by both Team Agree and Disagree.

In addition, Team Agree and Disagree also overlapped in regards to the role of the teacher/parent as an instrumental guide for young people. My classmate Channing shared a great quote: “Kids are growing up in a digital playground and no one is on recess duty“. We simply cannot allow this to continue to be true. As  “learning becomes more digital, educators at all levels are instrumental in building students’ understanding about how technology impacts both their personal and future professional lives. Educators are also instrumental in helping students develop lifelong habits to create and maintain a positive online identity (ISTE EdTek White Paper, 2015). The message here is simple: education about digital citizenship is as important for adults as for young people. Adults must also consider the implications of their actions when they are sharing on behalf of children.

While I believe all of this to be true, the classroom chat was a hot scene fueled by the debate topic this week. Much of this discussion focused on teachers being afraid to post online because of the ambiguity they felt surrounding privacy policies and the do’s and don’ts of posting online. So, my classmates (teachers who are informing themselves about these topics) could not agree on whether or not it was safe to share, whether policies in place regarding sharing of student information and images is adequate enough and despite the tips and tricks that are out there, what benefit or liability online sharing creates for young people of this generation.

To share or not share. That is the question.




7 thoughts on “To Share or Not to Share? That is the question.

  1. HI Brooke, thanks for your post! I was that parent who didn’t sign the permission form to share my son’s school photos online. Throughout his kindergarten year, we chose to not have his photos shared on his classroom facebook page. I was worried about his privacy. The problem was though, we didn’t get a glimpse into his school life. I feel that we missed out on a piece of his school year. So for his grade one year (this year) we decided that sharing his picture to the private class page was ok. Now we can ask direct questions about what he is learning at school. I love showing him the pictures that his teacher posts. His face lights up as he remembers the real experiences. His teacher posts intentionally to highlight the learning in her class. I feel that if an educator or a parent is not thinking before they post, not empathizing with who they are posting about, then the right to post should be somehow revoked.

  2. One of the best ways to grow our teaching practice is to think critically about what we are doing in our classrooms with our students. I think when we spend time thinking about whether we agree or disagree with something such as posting students pictures online, we are making sure we are doing best by our students.

    • Exactly. In a discussion some of the classmates are having on Twitter today, we are talking about the role of educators in teaching digital citizenship and how it is shared with parents. Additionally, what role the community plays in educating youth about how to be responsible online citizens and who/what organization in the community can/would be willing to take on this role?

  3. Great post! There certainly was an overlap by both team agree and disagree, wasn’t there? I think there was some strategy there, as both sides tried to temper their debate and appeal to balance. As is with the case with so many things in life, it isn’t black and white. I’m sure both team could have interchanged members and the results would have been more or less the same thing.

    “Each and every time we connect, we engage in some way that creates our online identity, our profile, our persona. And it happens automatically and too often without a lot of forethought about the identity that will be created”

    This quote that you cited is basically it, isn’t it? In the case of the example that I tried to trumpet, of the Austrian teenager suing her parents, would it have even been an issue if her parents had been using their social media responsibly? Probably not, right? Again, as you cite, digital footprints can be an asset or liability. Clearly, I would think, the identity that these parents were passing on was deemed to be a liability.

    Like a hammer, social media can be a tool used to great effect, or it can be a deadly weapon. It all depends on how it is being used.

    • Great analogy Joe! It seems regardless of the debate, we can always return to the notion that technology/social media is a tool. It is about how you use it and how you use it in a balanced way. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Thank you for your comments, Brooke! Your blog definitely reflects the divided opinions of our debate last week. I think that we all can agree that there needs to be a balance between openness and safety. Quite honestly, I would be concerned with people who would completely avoid sharing anything (when we do have the digital capabilities) and, conversely, those who would take a reckless approach and post everything. Digital citizenship needs to be forefront in the minds of students, teachers, and parents alike. Fortunately (and yes, I see this as a positive), we have the the opportunity to not only connect our students to the world outside of school, but we also have the opportunity to model and guide them about appropriate and ethical posting.
    Thank you again for your thoughts!

    • I agree. I think about how challenging it would be to completely avoid sharing of any sort. In this present moment it seems like it would be a losing battle! And certainly an unbalanced perspective. Of course there will always be positives and negatives to sharing online. It is up to us — parents and teachers — to decide which one (positive or negative) will prevail. I completely agree with you here: “we have the the opportunity to not only connect our students to the world outside of school, but we also have the opportunity to model and guide them about appropriate and ethical posting”. This is a positive! Thank you for your comments Shelly!

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