With online privacy on everybody’s minds these days - thank you, Mr. Zuckerberg - what better time for parents to consider the consequences of what experts are calling “oversharenting”?
Let’s break it down. “Sharenting” refers to the sharing of kids’ images and info by parents on social media. “Over-sharenting” is when those posts cross the line from adorable to (unintentionally) abusive, putting kids at risk in ways parents never imagined.
At the extreme end of the spectrum, law enforcement specialists have suggested that 50 percent of images shared on pedophile sites have been taken from parents’ social media sites.
Consider these statistics from Market Watch:
- Up to 92% of two-year-olds already have an online presence.
- Of these, about a third will appear on social media as newborns.
- When kids appear in Facebook photos, almost half are identified by name.
- On Instagram posts, one in five parents identifies their child by both name and date of birth.
Parents who don't see such commonplace practices as potential "privacy breaches," say experts, need to reconsider.
A child’s right to privacy - is that a thing?
A growing number of researchers, pediatricians and child health advocates see an inherent conflict between a parent’s right to post, and a child’s right to privacy.
In one recent case, a proud father posted a photo of his daughter that she believed to be unflattering. She worried about being teased at school and asked him to take it down.
When dad refused, she reported him to Facebook’s administrator. (In the end, Facebook upheld the father’s right to keep the post in circulation.)
Public embarrassment is one thing. But making your child’s identity vulnerable to pedophiles and sex offenders is quite another.
“We lose control of where our kids’ photos end up when we share them online,” says Family Zone cyber expert and child development specialist Dr. Kristy Goodwin. In her book Raising Your Child in a Digital World, she advises parents to involve their kids when selecting photos to be shared online. “Kids have a right to control their ‘digital DNA,’” she explains.
Location tools on Instagram and Facebook and many other social platforms may seem harmless. But they give potential stalkers the ability to pinpoint exactly where kids are in real time, allowing them to track family routines with GPS-like accuracy. (Location services on most apps can and should be turned off in “Settings.”)
Privacy settings don’t check themselves
Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal - in which the profiles of 87 million users worldwide were compromised - is a potent reminder that privacy settings need to be reviewed on a regular basis.
Yet figures from the Child Rescue Coalition (CRC), a not-for-profit partnership of law enforcement professionals and child welfare advocates, show 89% of parents haven’t checked their privacy settings in over a year.
But even the strictest privacy controls are no guarantee of safety - thanks to the ease with which images can be screenshotted and shared.
Hashtags make it easy for child-sex offenders and pedophiles to locate “oversharented” images of kids (think #bathtime #pottytraining #nakedkids #bikinikids).
The CRC’s Kids for Privacy campaign, launched this month in observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month, is aiming to reclaim such hashtags and raise consciousness about image-posting that overexposes kids.
Obviously, not all “sharenting” is a problem. Most of the time, mums and dads are simply proud of their offspring and want - and arguably deserve - some digital bragging rights.
To keep everyone safe, experts recommend parents ask themselves four simple questions before they post:
- Why am I sharing this?
- Would I want someone else to share an image like this of me?
- Would I want this image of my child viewed and downloaded by pedophiles on the dark web?
- Is this something I want to be part of my child’s digital life?
At Family Zone, we’re committed to ensuring positive online experiences for every member of the family. To learn more about our world-leading digital control solutions, visit us at familyzone.com and start your free trial today!