97% of moms on Facebook post pictures of their kids.
Are the privacy and security settings on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram enough to protect you and your children from predators or identity theft? We like to think so. With smartphones, it’s just second nature to snap a quick picture and let our virtual social circle know what we’re up to. And most of us do it. A recent US study found that 63 percent of moms use Facebook, and 97 percent of them post pictures of their children. Similarly, 89 percent of those moms post status updates about their kids and 46% post videos of them. So even if our online “friends” are carefully screened, could those images, updates, and videos still somehow end up in the wrong hands
Constant technology and policy changes make the answer unclear of how “private” our online lives really are, but there are some things to consider if you choose to share pictures of your kids online.
Who will see it?
Even if your friends’ lists are carefully screened, did you know that if one of your friends “likes” a photo, all of their friends can see it too? If other people are in the photo with your kids and you tag them, it immediately goes to their profile and can be viewed by their friends and possibly even the public if their settings aren’t strict.
“In reality, there’s lots of other people posting information about you without your control and it is fairly difficult – if not impossible – to police the social media circles of everyone you know,” said Alice Marwick, who lectures on social media and digital culture at Fordham University in New York.
If any of this raises red flags, don’t panic. There are options for sharing photos with specific individuals. If you still don’t trust posting photos on a social media site, there are online photo sharing pages that allow photos to be uploaded to a password-protected album, and you can send invites to your grandma, aunt, etc. so only they can view the photos by password.
What information does it provide?
It’s just a family picture in front of the van before the big road trip, what’s so bad about that?
Is the house number visible? The license plate number on the car? Do you say how long you’ll be gone or where you’re going? Have you previously posted anything about what state or city you live in, or is that visible on your profile? Suddenly your entire friend list knows that your house is empty, for how long it will be empty, and where to find it.
Little pieces of information can be put together to form a bigger picture – a picture you may not want some people to see. It becomes all too easy for a predator to know what school your child attends, what dance studio they visit after school, what day you do carpool, and your home address. Or, if you recently had a baby, is the hospital where they were born visible? How about their full name and birthday? Your child’s identity could be stolen with this information online.
How would you feel if it ended up in the wrong hands?
Perhaps the best question to ask yourself before you post a picture is “how would I feel if this ended up in the wrong hands?” Even seemingly innocent photos can be misconstrued on the internet. Avoiding innocent nudity or vulnerable situations can protect your children. If these photos could be downloaded or shared by anyone, is there potential that they could be shared on a website you wouldn’t be comfortable with?
When in doubt, keep it private. Cherish those moments in your heart, not online.
Is your location tagged?
Did you know that several smart phones have a location setting that automatically tags your photos with the location of where they were taken? This information is then uploaded with the photo when you share it online. There are ways to turn these settings off, so look up the model of your phone and it’s location/GPS settings to make sure you aren’t inadvertently leaving a trail.
How would your children feel about these photos as adults?
Adults today don’t have to look through their parent’s online profiles to find embarrassing photos or stories of them when they were children. But what about our children? Would they want a future employer, girlfriend, or college admissions office knowing about the tantrums they threw until they were 10? Or the car accident they caused as a teenager? Probably not. Again, before you post a picture or anecdote starring your child, ask yourself if it were a picture or story of you, would you want it online? Would you want all of your PARENTS’ friends to see it, not your own?
I can’t say there’s a right or wrong answer to the question of if you should or should not post pictures of your children online. For many parents, including myself, social media has become a convenient solution to sharing the lives of my children with my friends and loved ones who aren’t here to share it in person. But ultimately, we must ask ourselves, “at what cost?”