Back in May 2015 a post went viral about the dangers of posting everything, and especially information about our children, on Facebook or other social media mediums, reaching 124,000 shares. It tried to warn parents of the danger of providing too much information about the whereabouts of their children online and risk this falling into the wrong hands.
Parents responded to this post very differently, while some deleted Facebook all together and asked friends and family members not to post any pictures of their children, others were not alarmed and continued regularly posting pictures on social media or family blogs. But what exactly is best for the children involved?
Keeping the Location of Your Child Anonymous
Although it is important to stay grounded and not get swept away by paranoia, there is nevertheless a threat out there that requires keeping sensitive information and the location of your child safe. Regardless of your social media security settings, you cannot guarantee to keep this information anonymous when it is posted online.
Many people believe that using a VPN, private web browser, or other similar methods, will keep them anonymous online – or at the very least obscure their location – but this concept is misunderstood. Although there are definitely some ways to help you increase your internet privacy and remain a little more secure online, privacy and anonymity are not the same thing. Anonymity means that all identifying data is eliminated, while privacy means that identifying data is merely more protected and can be more controlled by the user, but the identifying data is still there. The truth is that you can never be truly anonymous on the internet.
So you have to keep in mind that when the content is posted online, it is there for good and it has some measure of traceability. If posting any pictures of your children online, they should never include locational landmarks, the location setting on the social media site should be turned off, and you should never use the “check in” function. It is equally important to use forethought to ensure that you do not post anything that could be harmful to your child’s digital footprint later on in life – for example, that bath time photo.
Keeping Your Child’s Digital Footprint Safe
This brings us to the second argument – securing a child’s digital footprint and accounting for the fact that photos of babies and young children are posted without their consent. Especially given the rise in widespread accessibility to web hosting platforms like this one, many parents are sharing their family lives on dedicated blogs as well as social media. In fact, according to recent research, parents will post almost 1000 photos online of their child before he or she turns 5. While of course there’s nothing wrong with this per se, parents are creating a digital footprint that the child has no control over and therefore need to do so responsibly. From photos that can embarrass the child later on, even leaving them open to instances of cyber bullying, or merely feeling as though their privacy has been taken from them, parents need to think carefully about the consequences each posted photo could have on the child later down the road.
And of course as much as you can try to control your own posting, there is still very little control over other people posting pictures of your children. Whether that be proud family members, or as in the shocking and revolting case of Garod Roth who subjected a co-worker’s child to racist remarks in a post that went viral, digital footprints are very real. Not only did this infuriate and hurt the family, but it left the child with a harmful digital footprint that will follow him.
Of course there are always those scare stories out there that are the extreme, I think the major question is how do we find a healthy balance? How do we raise strong, confident, self-reliant children and ensure that what we post about them today doesn’t hurt them tomorrow? Perhaps this is a question with no concrete answer, but practicing strict privacy and control can be a place to start.