Snapping a photo of your kids and sharing it on social media may seem like a harmless act. It’s natural to be proud of your children and want to share that feeling with friends and loved ones online.

But posting photos, videos, and other information about your child online leaves them vulnerable to identity theft. Every day, criminals scour the internet, including social media, for personal information they can use to commit fraud.

Here’s what you need to know about “sharenting” and how it can lead to identity theft.

What Is Sharenting?

Sharenting happens when parents, guardians, or other family members post about children online, including videos, images, accomplishments, and other information. Social media platforms are often the preferred method for sharenting.

What Are the Concerns Around Sharenting?

Sharenting raises several privacy and security concerns:

  • Some parent bloggers and influencers may post their children to establish and grow a social media audience. These posts may be sponsored or used for advertising, which creates concerns about the exploitation of children for financial gain.
  • Social media platforms collect data about their users to share with advertisers. This may include data about the user’s children and data about underage users as well.
  • Children may not be able to provide informed consent when it comes to sharing information about them online because they don’t fully understand the risks and issues tied to a digital presence. Essentially, their online identity can be shaped for them before they have control over it.
  • Sharenting can give criminals the information they need to commit identity theft, which may have long-reaching consequences for the victim’s future.

How Sharenting Can Lead to Identity Theft

When you share information about your kids, you are creating an online footprint that your child has little or no control over. And some of the information you share can be valuable to identity thieves.

Your child’s full name, date of birth, and age are key types of personally identifiable information (PII) that can be used to commit identity theft. Criminals hunt through social media platforms to look for public posts that give them clues to decipher this information (or hand it over outright). For example, a post about your newborn baby could clue an identity thief into your child’s name and birth date.

It’s true that most types of identity theft will require a Social Security number (SSN). But if a criminal has already managed to find your child’s SSN, they can fill in the rest from social media to open fraudulent accounts in your child’s name. With synthetic identity theft, thieves can also combine some of your child’s PII with falsified information to create a fake identity using your child’s SSN.

Child identity theft can go undetected for years. Most parents don’t think to check their child’s SSN, and the child can’t apply for credit until they’re 18. Your child may not discover their SSN has been stolen until they apply for a loan, credit card, or apartment lease.

While the victim won’t be held legally responsible for financial losses caused by identity theft, they may need to spend months or even years restoring their identity. This can involve a lot of time-consuming work and even out-of-pocket expenses.

Another form of identity theft is known as digital kidnapping. With digital kidnapping, a stranger steals a photo of a child and poses as the child or their parents. The impostor’s motivation could be to gain a social media following or commit fraud by tricking the child’s friends or family.

Other Reasons You Shouldn’t Overshare Your Kids’ Information Online

There are several other reasons why you should avoid oversharing about your kids online:

Shaping Children’s Digital Identities and Impacting Identity Development

By the age of two, 92% of American children already have an online identity. When parents establish an online identity for their child, the child’s sense of individuality and independence may be harmed in the long run. Children may prefer boundaries concerning what types of posts can be shared and who should see them.

When children aren’t consulted about sharenting, it can rob them of their ability to develop their own identity. And very young children have no way to grasp the concept of an online identity or the risks associated with sharing content online.

Cyberbullying and Social Pressure

Children with a substantial online presence may be vulnerable to cyberbullying. Preteens and adolescents in particular may feel self-conscious about their appearance, online image, and how they appear to their peers.

Sharenting Is Difficult to Undo

Sometimes you may post something about your child that you wish to take down. Maybe it contains PII that you didn’t want to share, or maybe you realize your child would find the post embarrassing someday. But deleting a photo doesn’t automatically erase it because someone could have downloaded the image already. Plus, certain websites can save and archive public social media posts.

Impacting Your Child’s Future

Those embarrassing photos, videos, and other content that you share about your kids? They could affect your child’s future in unpredictable ways. For example, college recruiters or potential employers could make decisions about your child based on the photos you’ve posted.

7 Ways to Help Protect Your Child Online

There are several ways to help protect your child online and avoid oversharing:

  1. Minimize What You Share

Don’t over-post about your child on social media and avoid sharing sensitive information, including your child’s full name, birth date, address, pet names, and favorite places to visit. Cybercriminals can exploit these details to commit identity theft, hack into accounts, or even target your child where they are located. You also shouldn’t share photos of your child that they may not want others to see, either now or in the future.

  1. Remove Metadata from Files

A photo’s metadata contains details such as the time, data, and geotag. Someone can determine your location and other information about you by examining the photo’s metadata. Turn off geotagging in your phone to help ensure photos don’t contain sensitive information. You can also use certain apps to remove metadata before you post a picture.

  1. Post Anonymously

When you need social support because of parenting challenges but want to maintain privacy, consider looking for an online support group where you can post anonymously. That way, you can receive support and guidance from other parents who can relate to your situation without compromising your child’s privacy.

  1. Enable Privacy Settings

Check and customize the privacy policies and settings of the websites you use and consider choosing the most restrictive privacy settings. You may be able to keep photos restricted only to specific individuals, for example.

Always know what information is collected by the websites you use. Under federal law, websites must get a parent’s permission before they collect data from children under the age of 13.

  1. Reduce Your Followers

Consider whittling down your social media followers to only family members and trusted friends. Or you can switch to other services to share photos – for example, Flickr allows you to create invitation-only photo albums.

  1. Hide Names and Faces

Searching someone’s name online can reveal details such as their email, age, address, and social media accounts. To help keep your kid safe, consider using a fictional name or just using initials. You can also protect your kids’ privacy by hiding key features in photos and blurring or blocking their faces.

  1. Ask Your Child for Permission

If your child is old enough to understand the internet and consent to sharing their photos online, start seeking their permission before you post anything. Offer a preview of what you are about to post. Should your kids ask you not to post specific pictures or content, you should honor that request.

Of course, keep in mind that your child may not understand the implications of having their image out there online — so while they may give their consent for you to share a photo, they may not be doing so from the most informed point of view.

Bottom Line: Prioritize Privacy and Security Over Social Media Sharing

In this digital era, it’s common for parents to share photos and videos of their children on social media. But this can put a child’s safety, privacy, social life, and self-image at risk. Consider the risks and long-term effects before you share anything about your kids. And make sure to educate your kids about safe social media and internet practices so they can protect themselves online.


What are the different types of sharenting?

Sharenting can come in many forms, from posting pictures of your kids to bragging about your kid’s accomplishments. It’s important to be mindful of your child’s privacy and to think about how your posts might affect your kids in the future.

What are some of the negative consequences of sharenting?

Sharenting can lead to several negative consequences. It can make children feel self-conscious and exposed. It takes away their power to shape their own digital identities (or avoid social media altogether). And it can even lead to being targeted by criminals for fraud and identity theft.