Life

Leona O'Neill: Your social media posts can and will embarrass your kids

Parents might be proud of their bodies, their beauty, their achievements and their talents, but posting about them on social media is always going to impact their kids in some manner – often negatively. That's why mums and dads need to think twice before sharing anything online that they wouldn't want their children to see, writes Leona O'Neill...

If you post something that's potentially embarrassing on social media, you can bet it will be used to tease your kids
If you post something that's potentially embarrassing on social media, you can bet it will be used to tease your kids

I READ a story at the weekend about television star Ulrika Jonsson who said she didn't care about embarrassing her kids with her risqué Instagram snaps.

The 54-year-old mother of four said she loves her body and wanted to make her children "cringe".

In her recent Sun column, she wrote that her youngest son had been teased by older boys at school because his mum "posts nudes" on social media. This was following a post Ulrika had put up of herself posing nude in her garden with a wheelbarrow to raise awareness for mental health charity StrongMen.

Ulrika Jonsson has written about how her son was bullied because she posted 'risqué' photos on social media. Picture by Emma Reynolds
Ulrika Jonsson has written about how her son was bullied because she posted 'risqué' photos on social media. Picture by Emma Reynolds

She wrote in another article that she felt it was a "parent's role to embarrass their children". I wouldn't be too sure about that. But each to their own.

A lot of our lives are on social media these days and people post things for different reasons. Women are rightly proud of their bodies, their achievements, their beauty, their talent and love to sing and dance about it on socials. They are raw and they are real, they can be crude and feisty and sexual and honest.

They are mostly communicating with an audience that is not their children, or their future children, because what goes online is online forever for future generations to click into and absorb. To think that what we post will not reach our kids, and our kids' peers, is naive.

Kids can be cruel, and certain kids find things to tease other kids about. It has been this way since time eternal. It's not ever going to change.

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Kids' lives are dominated by social media in the modern age
Kids' lives are dominated by social media in the modern age

If you're a 14-year-old boy and your mum is big on OnlyFans, you can bet your boots your peers will be mentioning that in the corridors at school, posting screengrabs on TikTok making fun of you.

If you're 15 and your ma is posting nude photos on Insta, that's going to be brought up with you in the school yard and shared on your social networks, regardless of her good intentions in sharing. It's just a fact of life, it's what kids do.

Obviously, mums have the right to share their experiences and share their pride in their bodies if they want, but there is room also there for mindfulness, respecting your children's privacy and helping to not hand others a stick to beat them with.

Social media apps
Social media apps

Notwithstanding the hassle they can get in the school yard, cyber bullying is another aspect to think on. Our children exist online, they interact with their friends online and with strangers, some of them with malicious intent. It's crucial that we as parents take a proactive approach to protect our kids, be mindful about we post and consider the consequences.

Being a responsible digital parent means taking time to consider the long-term impact of our social media presence on our children's lives. In this interconnected world, our online footprint can persist indefinitely, influencing educational and professional opportunities later on.

Certainly, 'likes' feel good, there's a dopamine hit that comes with them that can be addictive. Some people naturally crave being the centre of attention and constantly strive for that next dopamine surge that follows a popular update on social media. It's why social media was invented and why it is so hugely successful, it taps into natural human emotions that we all have.

Social media apps
Social media apps

This is not about censorship, no one is telling parents what they can post, but we need to put some empathy in there also, as it is key to understanding the consequences of our actions on social media.

Before hitting that 'share' button, take a moment to consider how the post might be perceived by others. If what you are writing or posting is not what you might send in a text message to your child, it's maybe worth a rethink, because you can bet someone else is going to text your post to them with a derogatory comment attached.

At the end of the day, social media is a public forum. What you post there does not stay there, it travels. It travels around your son's classroom, around your daughter's school corridors, out into the playground and into the parent groupchats, around your street and community and city, on WhatsApp messages and texts.

You can be sharing very intimate details and images of your life with complete strangers that you will meet during your day.

Perhaps you don't care, but your children probably do.