If you’re anything like the majority of proud and adoring parents out there, you’re filling up your Instagram and Facebook feeds with pictures of your children. What better way to show your family and friends just how adorable and clever your kids really are? Well, even though these platforms might seem like a safe space to store your digital family albums, experts are concerned that these images might end up in the wrong hands.
After reading a terrifying account (you can read about it here) from Brittany Champagne – a mother from Utah who found her children’s photos on a porn site – we decided it was time to tell parents what could happen to their images if unsavoury characters got hold of them.
According to Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, Alastair MacGibbon, there have been incidences where innocent photos of children engaging in everyday activities, posted by proud family members, are being downloaded and sexualised by paedophiles. MacGibbon explains that while the photo’s themselves depicted everyday scenes of children playing, they were accompanied by explicit, inappropriate comments.
Whilst this is distressing, sadly it’s the reality that modern parents are facing. And as a parent, it is important for you to understand the importance of posting cautiously. “When you post anything online, you have lost control of it. Oversharing parents are a concern because they have no idea about where these images go”, says Australian cyber-safety expert, Susan McLean.
Before you go ahead and delete every online trace of your children, we’re relieved to tell you that the above cases are few and far between. However, we do advise that you take certain precautions regarding your online antics going forward, especially those regarding your children.
Here are a few practical solutions to protecting your children’s safety online:
1. Make sure you have activated the most up-to-date privacy setting on your social media accounts. If the last time you checked your safety settings was when you downloaded Facebook or Instagram, it’s time to check that the settings are still active and relevant. Privacy settings change frequently, so it’s important to stay on top of these changes.
2. If you’d prefer that only a select number of people can view your posts, you can make your accounts completely private to ensure only close friends and family members can view your photos.
3. Don’t use geotagging! Geotagging allows people to see the precise location of where the picture or post was taken.
4. Avoid hashtags. The use of hashtags makes it much easier for anyone to search, find and download photos.
5. Use private online albums. Rather than using Instagram and Facebook as your online family album, we suggest that you explore the use of more secure platforms such as Flickr, Famipix or Cluster. These alternatives offer a much safer way to share and store photos.
6. Stay current. The online space is so diverse and ever changing. New services, products and safety features are emerging continually. It is so important to stay up to date on these changes to ensure that your children’s online experience is as safe as possible.
7. Check with your children. Before you post any images of your kids online, ask them if they are happy to have the pictured posted; you might be surprised by their response. There are a handful of parents out there that have chosen to let their children enter into the online space without a digital footprint created for them. You can read about this here.
At ParentsCorner, we encourage and acknowledge the use of social media as an interactive and expressive space when used appropriately. Our advice is simply to interact with social media cautiously and responsibly, and to ensure your safety and that of your children.