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How Much Should Parents Share on Facebook?

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How Much Should Parents Share on Facebook?

Facebook may have started out as a networking site for teens, but these days many parents have their own Facebook account as well. Ostensibly, its purpose is to link them to family and adult friends with whom they want to stay in touch, or to share news, events and milestones.

But as I have written before , information on Facebook and other social media sites can be used / misused by parents in family litigation; for example one parent can gather incriminating or unflattering information about the other.

But even leaving aside this “Facebook-as-evidentiary-weapon” approach, separated and divorcing parents should be aware that the information they innocently post on such sites can be harmful to the children.

Indeed, in a B.C. custody case called Bain v. Bain, the court concluded that the father’s decision to post photos of his child on Facebook demonstrated that he had questionable judgment as a parent. In ordering the father to both remove the photos and refrain from posting comments about the children in the future, the court wrote:

[The father] has made available on the internet by way of Facebook, pictures of the children in their very early years. There is a danger of publishing such pictures in this day and age, which should be apparent to any parent, let alone the father of two small daughters.

But threats to a child’s safety, privacy, or emotional well-being can be indirect as well. For example, a teenaged child may be embarrassed to have a parent post pictures on Facebook of a recent Vegas holiday, or flaunting a new (post-divorce) romantic interest. A child may lose respect for a parent after finding inappropriate comments or posted photos of behavior that is questionable for an adult, let alone a parent – even if that conduct takes place during non-custodial time. The parent-child relationship can be adversely affected if the child learns about the parent’s social life or relationships not directly, but rather through status updates.

The key is to view the posted information from the child’s perspective: What may seem relatively innocent to share among adult friends can be mortifying to a child who is at a development stage where the opinions and attitudes of peers is paramount. For this reason, parents need to turn their mind to adjusting privacy settings on Facebook and other social media sites like Facebook, to protect their children if necessary.

What is the bottom line? All parents – whether separated, divorced, or otherwise – need to understand how the modern trend towards living life as an open book on the internet might affect their kids. Remember: “What Happens in Vegas… Ends Up on Facebook”.

For the full text of the cited decision, see:

Bain v. Bain, 2012 BCSC 1019 (CanLII)  http://canlii.ca/t/fs0sq

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at www.RussellAlexander.com.