Voices

Draw a line before sharing information about your sick child on social media

2019-06-12 18:07

So, you, the parent or caregiver, have decided to share an episode of your child’s illness on social media.

I decided to write this post in response to what I have witnessed on various social media platforms –parents posting pictures and videos of their sick children and, most of these being geotagged.

It makes me wonder if we appreciate the possible unintended consequences of publishing this information social media.

It is an open secret that Artificial Intelligence is being used by different service providers for risk management purposes and for driving efficiencies. Some providers and employers are already mining “publicly available” data from social media sites for various reasons.

This calls for caregivers to monitor their online activities particularly when it comes to sharing health information about children, without the child’s informed consent.

Just imagine that geotagged post shared about a child getting nebs for asthma and the diagnosis (or misdiagnosis or self-diagnosis) being shared with the world (directly or indirectly).

Now, think of possible unintended consequences that might result from the post in the future:

• Insurer – they have to risk rate applicants for life cover. Your child might get a higher quote because of the assumed health risk. They might even get penalised for “non-disclosure” of pre-existing medical conditions.

• Employment opportunities – there is a risk of “automated” disqualification for positions which might not be suitable for people suffering from certain medical condition.

Parents and caregivers need to respect the child as an individual autonomous agent. Children should have the freedom to tell their own stories, at their own time, on their preferred platforms and with their chosen communities.

As parents and caregivers, you have the right to share your own experiences and private information but you need to draw the line between yours and your child’s. Many of us have forgotten that once something is posted on social media, it leaves digital prints. We cannot control how fast and far this information spreads.

Before posting such information, I suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

1. Why are you sharing such intimate information on social media? Is the act fit-for-purpose?

2. How is the post benefiting the child?

3. Do you understand the future implications of your post?

4. Is your post upholding your responsibility of protecting the child’s privacy?


Children are vulnerable and depend on the caregivers to protect their rights to privacy and dignity. Do not let your child in future be haunted by your social media activities. The old public health cliché stands true, “prevention is better than cure”.

In this case risk management is better than damage control. But probably my mind is polluted by watching too many crime channel shows and I wouldn’t dare share my allergies with my online friends (and frenemies).

• Dr Brenda Kubheka is from Health IQ Consulting, which provides risk management, quality improvement and clinical ethics services in the health sector.

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August 18 2019