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SHARENTING - the 3 main RISKS of POSTING photos of your child on Social Media

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

Hi everyone, like most British parents who prefer to keep their family photos and videos away from social media, I really care about my child’s privacy. I read an article in which a mum found herself feeling uncomfortable as she has uploaded on Social Media a picture of her daughter "looking like a demented car-thief", in her own words. My question is: why she did that?

Currently there are lots of debates regarding the restrictions of online privacy laws. Basically, each individual in the digital world has the fundamental right of privacy, as do those other people for whom this individual is legally responsible. However, these critical concepts of privacy seem not to match with "sharenting" (the term that defines parents sharing photos and videos of their children through social media). For this reason I decided to explore this topic.

It is clear that sharing photos online can be the most practical and easy way to show children photos to relatives and close friends; however, it is important to take care when exposing a child’s image on the Internet. In the past, any pictures taken were placed in a physical photo album and shown only to people close to the family, but nowadays, even in the maternity ward, many children are already starting to have photos, videos and details of their intimacy disclosed. Also it is essential to emphasize that the most critical consideration is not just to stop posting photos, but rather to think about the consequences of sharenting.

In this context Jessica Baron, a Tech Ethicist (Consumer Tech column - Forbes) explains that parents are not respecting youngsters’ privacy: “Parents are already some of the biggest violators of their kids’ privacy, leaving potentially harmful digital footprints well before the age of consent. A child or teenager’s digital footprint now starts before birth. From ultrasound photos and due date announcements posted to social media to the proliferation of smart toys, parents are revealing far more information than they realize about their children.”


RISK 1:

Talking about consequences, Jessica Baron reminds us that recently, 6.8 million more people have just had their Facebook Photos Exposed, when in the “Private mode”, meaning that, in theory, just people with access permission from the profile owner could see those photos. According to the IT specialist collaborating with Kids and Screens, Marcelo Lima, it is not possible to measure the actual level of visibility of a photo from when it is posted online. This means we can not evaluate who will see it, or for what purpose they will use or how they will use what is available online. Even if parents decide to delete these photos later, many people may have shared, saved, and even sent them to people who do not know their child. Once in the network, it is hard for the picture to be deleted permanently.


RISK 2:

Another critical risk is the possibility of Future Identity Theft Cases, pointed out by BBC News in the article “'Sharenting' puts young at risk of online fraud”. This channel interviewed Jodie Gilbert, head of digital safety for Barclays Bank, who mentioned that some parents are compromising their children's future financial security with all the content that has been posted on social media. "Through social media, it has never been easier for fraudsters to gather the key pieces of information required to steal someone's identity," said Gilbert.


RISK 3:

Be Careful with Hashtags: expert says they are putting children at risk online. This is a new finding that I got from CBS News. Child Rescue Coalition, is a non-profit organization that aims to protect all children from sexual exploitation using leading-edge technology, and they state: “A lot of images that parents think are kind of innocent and are sharing with their friends and family, but by hashtagging it, it’s making it searchable, allowing predators to view these images of children,” said founder and CEO Carly Yoost. They say research shows that by the age of two, 90 percent of children have a presence on social media. According to CRC, there are three common hashtags that are searchable by a child predator: #pottytraining | #nakedkids | #kidsbathing.


GENERAL TIPS - So what we can do?

Personally, I do not post photos of my son on social media. But respect different points of view, for this reason, I decided to include some tips that I have seen on the web page Internet Matters, an organisation the main purpose of which is to help parents to keep their children safe in the digital world.

1- Review privacy settings on social accounts. Control who can see your photos by applying the right

privacy settings. For an extra level of privacy, explore setting up a private social network group with friends and family.

2- Check your network of friends. Make sure you are happy that all your 100+ friends who will seeyour photo are actual friends. If not, consider only sharing with a select group of people.

3- Do a final check before posting. Take a second look at the picture before you post it to make sure it doesn’t reveal any personal details like your road or house number or their school name.

4- Get permission if the image features other kids. Posting a picture of their birthday, the first day at school or another milestone event in your child’s life which features their friends? It’s always better to ask the other parents before posting.

5- Managing your child’s digital footprint. If you’ve posted an image of your child from their first prenatal scan to their first day at nursery, it’s important to consider how this will affect them in the future. As they get older, seek their permission before posting.


So, taking to account all these considerations, I would like to emphasise we should evaluate all the actual consequences regarding this matter. The psychologist Bianca Blain claims that we need to use social media more responsibly, and we must not forget that children, however small, are human beings and must be respected, as one day they will grow and that image belongs to them. I hope you found this post useful and informative.


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References:

https://cbs12.com/news/local/expert-says-hashtags-are-putting-children-at-risk-online

https://www.internetmatters.org/advice/sharenting-tips-for-parents/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-44153754

http://www.ficargravida.com.br/comportamento/sharenting/

https://rr.sapo.pt/privacidade-online/index.aspx

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jessicabaron/2018/12/16/parents-who-post-about-their-kids-online-could-be-damaging-their-futures/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2012/10/19/sharing-too-much-itll-cost-you/#7f3b49d94125

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/06/30/a-run-down-of-social-medias-effects-on-our-mental-health/#41dc72c22e5a

https://mashable.com/article/children-facebook-baby-photos-privacy-risk/?europe=true

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/may/24/sharent-trap-should-parents-put-their-children-on-social-media-instagram

https://jelliesapp.com/blog/5-reasons-not-to-post-about-your-child-on-social-media

https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/sharenting-the-downside-to-posting-about-your-children-on-social-media

Ofcom Report 2017

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