The pros and cons of sharing your kids photos onlineMost of us share so much of our lives on Social Networks (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter et al.) that when a new baby arrives (and even before!) we don’t think twice about posting pictures of our pride and joy for the entire world to see. Some of us do it simply to share the growth and development of our children with friends and relatives who live far away.
It has been referred to as ‘Facebook parenting’ or ‘sharenting’ - our child’s first ultrasound, first picture right after birth (“she’s arrived!”), her first tooth, his first steps, the first day of kindergarten – all wonderful events that we are happy and eager to share. And what about those family vacation photos?
If you post all of those regularly, you are not alone. In fact the Longitudinal Study of American Youth in the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan found that over half of (55%) of 4000 Generation X adults have shared information or posted pictures from a vacation. Also, nearly two-thirds of parents (66%) reported posting pictures of their children online, and slightly more than half (56%) shared news of a child's accomplishment.
But if you are part of this trend, you are creating an online social presence for your child way before she has any say about what is posted, a digital identity that will follow her into her future, whether she likes it or not.
Think before you post those baby pics
There are some real risks associated with posting picture of your kids online. Following are 5 reasons why you should think twice before you post those cute baby photos:
- Anonymity and consent issues. When we post photos of our child, we're in effect taking control of our child's digital identity. Is it safe, or even ethical to publish something about someone who can’t give their consent? This may have an impact on their future social lives ( later on in life maybe they won’t really want their friends to see what they looked like during their “oh-so-cute” infant-tantrum videos you uploaded to YouTube?) And further down the road, could even affect their college admissions or future employment.
According to a 2012 Kaplan Test Prep of admissions officers from 500 academic institutions:
- 27% use Google+ to learn more about prospective students
- 26% use Facebook to learn more about prospective students/li>
- 35% found information on Google+ or Facebook that negatively impacted prospective students’ applications
These percentages are rising, so admissions officers will probably be checking out our children’s social media accounts – is it OK to expose our kids, without their knowledge or consent?
Employers place an even greater emphasis on social media reputation. Recent data regarding the connection between a person’s newsfeed and their hireability shows that:
- 75% of companies have hiring policies that encourage recruiters to examine an applicant’s online reputation/li>
- 84% of recruiters think that online reputations will impact future hiring procedures 1
- Someone may try to misuse your child's image without your knowledge. Do you want to see your child's picture passed off as someone else? Or even worse, used in an unsavory context? When you post your kids photos, you never know where and in what hands they will end up.
If you give away things like date of birth, place of birth, the child’s full name, or if you tag of any photographs with a geographical location, your child could easily become the victim of identity theft!
- You may be sharing your child's location. Even if you don’t actively give it away, GPS-enabled phones and location tracking integrated into photos by your camera or Smartphone make it very easy to collect sensitive information like your child's school address, your family's home address, and other places you frequent (like parks or shopping centers) – information you don’t want to get into the wrong hands.. And, with all the face recognition software out there, posting a picture of your child's face out there may make it easier for them to be recognized digitally by strangers.
- Advertisers can target you -- and your kids. Marketers use your activity on Facebook to target you with certain ads.
- You can’t take it back! Once you’ve posted that picture, there’s no way back. I’s always out there, on a server, and even if you tighten up your privacy settings, a picture or video, once shared online, can, with a few indiscreet clicks by family or friends, become public property. Moreover, even if you lock down your privacy settings to prevent strangers viewing your pictures and posts, that doesn’t stop others from uploading pictures of you or your kids
Things you CAN do
There are some basic rules you can follow, to alleviate some of these dangers.
- Think carefully about what you post! Don’t post pictures, videos or information, that could compromise your child now, or compromise their social life/school/career in the future.
- Don’t post semi-nude or nude pictures of your baby, toddler or child.
- Don’t use your children’s full, or even real, name. Use a nickname. This provides some anonymity, so that in the future when searched for by name, there are less chances that your child’s photos/videos will actually be found.
- Does your child already have a digital identity? Google her name and see what comes up.
- Use hack-proof passwords. Avoid family names, full dictionary words. Prefer letter-number combinations.
- As your children grow, involve them in the process. Ask them if they are comfortable for you to share their photos in a limited community. Let them have the final say on which photos are OK to share and which aren’t.
- Most social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr have custom privacy settings. Get to know them, up-date your settings regularly, and ensure your shots are not ‘tagged’ and shared.
- Go over your Facebook and other social network contacts. Do you really want to be friends with all of them? Make sure you are only sharing with people who are close to you in real life too.
- Never publish or share pictures or videos of other people’s children without their consent.
- Turn off the ‘location’ service when taking pictures on your mobile device.
- Never post your child’s name along with their birth dates, school, address (or email), or phone number.
Tags: online child safety, safe internet use, time limits, internet curfew