More and more parents are posting baby pictures to Facebook. A recent study found that one third of newborns appear on the internet within their first 24 hours, while 90 percent of two year olds have an online presence. UK parents post on average about 200 baby and toddler photos per year, so these children are featured in close to 1,000 images by the time they turn five.
Picture sharing is especially prevalent during the holiday season. At ReputationDefender we work with all of our clients to protect their privacy through ongoing internet surveillance and by removing negative images when necessary. Don’t become your child’s worst nightmare by sharing images they will regret later in life. Being careful now will help to preserve your child’s future reputation and give them a chance to define themselves online as they grow up.
Social media is still a relatively new platform and so there’s no hard data to tell us how an online presence can affect children later in life. However, experts have already identified three potentially serious issues:
- Location - Posting images that tag your child’s location can pose an immediate danger by letting stalkers and kidnappers know where to find your child. Adam Levin, cofounder of Credit.com recommends turning off any automatic geo-tagging when posting data that relates to your children. This includes pictures of your home, your child’s school or playground and any other place they visit regularly. It’s tempting to take part in “Facebook’s Show-It-All Culture”, but location data just makes your child an easy target for kidnapping or harassment.
- Compromising Pictures - Images posted to the internet will become public property and they cannot be deleted or erased easily. How will baby pictures that seem cute now affect your child’s reputation as he or she grows up? Clinical psychologist, Barbara Greenberg, warns parents that the digital profile they establish for their children can play a factor throughout the rest of their lives. What appears funny at age two, may make your child a target for cruel teenage bullies. Parents also risk psychologically “branding” their children with whatever personality traits they may display as a baby. Children who grow up seeing images of themselves pictured as “shy” or “clingy” may start to define themselves in this way. Greenberg encourages parents to think about “what’s best for their children” and avoid posting images that could influence self-perception later in life.
- Editing Photos - Images that are available publically can easily be photo-shopped and miss-used to serve pornographic ends. This may not be something parents want the think about, yet unfortunately this seamy side of the internet is too real to just be ignored. Greenberg warns that parents “lose control” whenever they post an image of their children. Unethical people may be able to access your Facebook photos and photo-shop them in ways you’d rather not even imagine. This is especially true of images where children are wearing little clothing. In France, authorities are taking this seriously, serving fines up to £35,000 and possible imprisonment for parents posting “intimate” pictures of young children “without permission”.
Some parents feel secure because they’ve set Facebook’s privacy controls to “friends only”. This can definitely help, but no one can be sure that relatives and other people on their Facebook friend list have the same scruples. Adriana Sanford, Professor of corporate compliance and ethics at Arizona State University, warns that a lot of grandparents particularly don’t have much knowledge or “sophistication” when it comes to the internet. Many grandparents have only recently discovered social media and they are "just pushing buttons", she says. "They're… so excited about seeing their grandchildren. They assume it’s all safe, [yet the reality is] they have no idea who is seeing their posts”.
If grandma or grandpa share’s a “friend’s only post”, it will stay within the original audience; however, if you send them a link to the photo, it can be unwittingly posted or shared publically. Then of course there are the photos relatives take independently on their own cameras. Sanford advises taking the time to educate grandparents and other elderly relatives close to your child about the dangers of posting online and to implement the importance of privacy controls. It may seem like your concerns take away from the holiday spirit, but in the end, people will respect you for taking the time to protect your child.
Summing It Up
It’s important to remember that your child will grow up to be an individual with their own personality and they should have the right to express themselves online in a manner of their choosing. With the internet now influencing so much of our personal and professional lives, the online profile you create for your child will have a big impact on how they are seen in the future. For this reason, it’s better to limit sharing this Christmas unless your child is old enough to decide for themselves.
Here is a quick list of guidelines for parents, grandparents and family members to follow:
- Consider the long term consequences – Who may read the post in five, ten, or fifteen years and what will it say about your child?
- Never share a child’s location – Do not automatically geotag every picture you share, especially if you have children.
- Make your wishes known – If you see someone taking a picture of your children, make sure they know you don’t want it posted online. Over-sharing usually takes place thoughtlessly, without malice.
- Give your kids veto power – As your children grow older, make sure they have a voice in deciding what pictures of them get posted. This will help them develop a healthy understanding of how to use the internet.
- When in doubt, don’t post – No one regrets not sharing and, when it comes to children, this is the much safer option.
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