When does posting our kids’ pics online cross the line?

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The day we dropped my son off at his college. Yes, I posted this on Facebook.

Parents are a strange lot. In a recent survey, a majority of parents worry that their children may be victims of pedophilia, stalking, kidnapping and cyberbullying—yet they post their kids’ pictures online at least once a day. According to an article in Michigan’s Morning Sun called “Survey: Parents ignore concerns of sharing images of children online,” more than 58 percent of parents don’t consider if their children want their images posted online in the first place.

Since I joined Facebook at least 10 years ago, I’ve posted plenty of pictures of my kids. Like their first days of school, graduation, proms, swim meets, vacations, etc. I never once was concerned with what my kids thought of my FB posts. Isn’t that funny considering how I HATE IT when a friend posts a picture of me? So, why on earth did I think it was okay to post pics of my kids willy-nilly?

I spent the weekend with my daughter and told her about my idea for her first day of work. I wrote about that here. She laughed but said absolutely “NO” on posting a picture of her leaving on her first day of work. However, she was more open to a photo of her pupper Waffles on her first day of adulting. At that moment, a flash went through my brain. My kids are now adults. They are autonomous, no longer under my control, or mine to post pics of them whenever I fancy. Shouldn’t they have had some say so all along? My son and daughter have never been shy about telling me to take down a photo or complaining about my posts. I just never listened carefully before.

From the article I mentioned, McAfee surveyed parents about their kid pic posting habits:

Nearly half of parents are concerned about pedophilia, and yet almost a third of parents surveyed said in a recent poll that they post a video or picture of their child at least once a day on social media.

Cybersecurity company McAfee recently announced results of its latest survey, The Age of Consent, and found 30 percent of parents post a photo or video of their child at least once a day on their social media accounts with 12 percent posting four or more times per day — showing the extent of child exposure on the web.

Most parents identified the following concerns associated with sharing images online including pedophilia (49 percent), stalking (48 percent), kidnapping (45 percent) and cyberbullying (31 percent). But 58 percent don’t consider whether their child would consent to their image being posted online. In fact, 22 percent of parents think their child is too young to decide, and another 19 percent think it should always be left up to the parent to decide.

However, these concerns doesn’t translate into action, as many admit to still including children’s personal information and private details in online images.

For example, half of the parents surveyed admit that they have or would share a photo of their child in their school uniform despite the risk of giving away personal information. Yet, it’s comforting to see the majority (70 percent) of parents are only sharing photos of children on private social media accounts. This is certainly a good first step, but there is much more needed to be done to ensure parents are protecting their children’s identity.

“Posting photos and videos on social media is a great way for parents to share what’s going on in their lives with loved ones,” said Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at McAfee. “However, the survey reveals parents are not giving enough consideration to what they post online and how it could harm their children. If shared images get into the wrong hands, they can be used to gather information like birth dates, home address, school, or even the child’s full name which could lead to cyberbullying or even identity theft.”

I think the survey has some good ideas for us parents to think about—before we post. Also, take into consideration what our kids would like us to do with THEIR images. I remember my daughter’s freshman year of college. Her so-called friends stalked my FB page and downloaded embarrassing pictures of my daughter—Snap Chatting and Instagramming them. I feel bad about how I unknowingly contributed to online bullying. It was all in good fun and I’m sure and not meant to be bullying—but what would you call it when friends post pre-pubescent “ugly” photos of you—without your permission?

Here are four tips for parents sharing children’s photos online from the Morning Sun article:

Parental Tips for Safe Sharing

Watch out for geo-tagging. Many social networks will tag a user’s location when a photo is uploaded. Parents should ensure this feature is turned off to avoid disclosing their location. This is especially important when posting photos away from home.

Lock down privacy settings. Parents should only share photos and other social media posts with their intended audience. Services like Facebook and Instagram have features that allow posts to be shared only with confirmed connections, but everything posted on a social network should be treated as if it’s public.

Set ground rules with friends, family and children. Be clear with friends and family about guidelines when posting images. These rules can help avoid unwanted situations where a family member has shared photos without explicit permission. Don’t forget that these ground rules should also apply to parents to protect the children in the images from embarrassment, anxiety or even cyberbullying.

Take control of your personal information. As the number of reported data breaches continue to rise, so too does the possibility of identity theft. For children who are too young for a credit card, parents should freeze their credit to avoid any unauthorized use. An identity theft protection solution like McAfee Identity Theft Protection can help consumers proactively protect their identity and keep their personal information secured from misuse.

 

Maybe I’ll stick to posting pictures of Waffles and Olive from now on. I don’t think the dog and cat will mind too much.

What do you think about your children’s safety or their opinions when you post their pictures online? 

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