As a proud parent, it’s natural to want to share photographs of your children online with your family and friends. We all do it. Humans are highly social animals; for better or worse, the internet has become a place to fulfill our intrinsic need for social interaction and connection.
While there's no question we have the best intentions when sharing our favorite moments of our kids' lives, from their first day of school to their swim meet victory, it’s wise to be aware of the dangers of sharing these images and the steps you can take to protect your children’s privacy.
Safety Considerations When Sharing Photos of Your Child
One of the major dangers of sharing images of your children online is the potential for strangers to access and view them.
There is a fairly new phenomenon known as “digital kidnapping” in which social media users steal images of children which are posted online and repurpose them for digital role-playing. Most of these role-playing accounts are relatively PG, but it is difficult to track how the images are being used, and unsettling to know that someone is using pictures of your children to play out any sort of fantasy. While you may only intend for a select group of people to have access to your posts, it’s fairly easy for them to be shared and reposted without your knowledge, making your children vulnerable to online predators, who may use the photos to manipulate or exploit them.
Another risk is that an online predator may use a photo of your child to pretend to be a friend or peer in order to gain their trust and manipulate them into revealing personal information or meeting in person. In extreme cases, images may be used and altered in the creation of explicit content involving minors.
To make matters worse, many of the photos you post online contain metadata that includes clues about your location, and other sensitive private information that ill-intentioned actors may use to enact harm.
A Child's Right to Privacy
It’s also worthwhile to consider how we think about a child’s right to privacy.
As we have discussed, once an image is posted online, it is difficult to control who sees it, and how it is used. Even if we make attempts to delete content from our social media. It may already be too late. These images can endure, altering our child’s online persona, self-image, and reputation in the future. In some cases, images have even been used for bullying and social intimidation by a student’s peers.
Moreover, what happens years down the line when your children realize you have been documenting their lives online, often without their consent? Experts have seen this create a rift between parent and child, where the child feels that their privacy has been violated before they were even old enough to hold their own social media accounts.
Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Child's Privacy
To protect your children and their privacy, it’s important to be cautious about what and how you are documenting their lives online. Here are a few steps you can take:
Use privacy settings on social media platforms to limit who can see your photos. This will help prevent strangers from accessing your photos, as well as limit sharing and reposting without your knowledge.
Safety experts warn you to think twice before posting photos that contain personal information about your children, such as their location or school. Consider cropping out or blurring these details before posting. This can be a compromise as your kids stay protected. I think it's worth considering here, that perhaps the real intent is for us as parents to share our own lives with our social group (as opposed to the lives of our children).
Talk to your children about the potential dangers of sharing photos of themselves online, and be cautious about what they post. Ensure that you have installed and become proficient at parental controls to protect their online privacy.
Final Thoughts on Minimizing Risks to Your Children Online
While we all understand the pressure to keep friends and family connected to our lives through social media, it is still necessary to be aware of the bad actors lurking around the internet, and take common-sense steps to protect our children while they are the most vulnerable.
If you are ready to change your privacy settings and set up effective parental controls, but aren’t sure where to start, we have a team of friendly tech professionals who can assess your needs, establish security settings, and train you on the best ways to protect your children’s online privacy going forward. Speak to a friendly tech expert today so that you can achieve peace of mind knowing your kids are better protected online.