It's a question I get over and over from my friends and followers: "Why don't you ever post your son on Instagram?"

While my refusal to share photos of my child on social media may seem weird in an era where everyone shares everything, the normalcy of sharing photos of small children makes me feel even more protective of my son. Maybe I'm more private than most people, or maybe I'm just old fashioned but I think my son should have the right to decide how much of himself he wants to share with the world when he's old enough to make those decisions responsibly. Lord knows I posted some questionable photos of myself when I was younger, and I can't imagine what it would feel like if someone posted an embarrassing pic of me on my behalf!

And then there is the reality of the world we live in: digital kidnapping is a thing. Even more horrifying: child predators are using social media photos to exploit the children in them by digitally altering the photo, or adding nauseatingly inappropriate captions. I can't accept even a small risk that my son's photo could be used that way.

So with that in mind, here are five tips for protecting your child's online image:

  1. Customize your privacy settings. Most social media platforms allow you to create different settings for different photo albums. So on Facebook, for example, you can create an album of your kids' photos that is only shared with family, and not with friends from high school you haven't seen in a decade.

  2. Post low-res photos. While posting a pic of your child slurping a shake at your favorite burger joint might be adorable, that also could enable the owner of the chain to use that photo in her marketing materials. Posting low resolution photos ensures that they won't be suitable for printing or advertising.

  3. Don't share your location. If a random person on the street approached you with your child and asked you where you live and which places you like to visit, you'd probably run away. You might even mace them. So why are you telling thousands of strangers on the Internet?

  4. Be selective about what you post. Photos of your child are less likely to be stolen if the child is not looking directly at the camera. And keep those only-partially-clothed pics to yourself.

  5. Ask before you post. Once your kids hit grade school, they may have definite opinions about what's okay to post. Asking a simple question might save them from teasing, or give them a sense of control that boosts their self esteem.

For more info, NPR did a great piece on sharing kids' photos. You can find it here.