Many parents think nothing of posting photos and stories about their kids on social media. Who doesn’t want to see photos of that gummy grin or read something funny that your little one said? Sharing your life on social media is the norm for many parents, who use Facebook to stay connected with far-flung relatives and connect with other parents.
But just because posting about your kids is “normal” and practically everyone is doing it, does that mean it’s safe? As it turns out, many parents are actually endangering their kids with their innocent social media posts without even realizing it.
Digital Identity Theft and More
Imagine you are online, checking out some blogs, and you suddenly come across a photo of your child — and someone else is claiming to be her parent. This person is posting photos, talking about activities and milestones, and even responding to comments pretending to be your child’s parent.
It seems unrealistic, but it has happened. Known as digital identity theft, criminals have been known to download photos from Facebook and other websites and use those photos for their own purposes. Some simply pretend to have children, but others use the photos for more nefarious purposes, like advertising, child pornography, or trafficking activities.
The possibility of digital identity theft is actually quite high. And worst of all? It’s technically not a crime. It’s definitely a violation of the terms of service, but so far, there are no laws on the book relating to stolen photos and videos. Usually, a parents’ only recourse is to report the violation to the site where it occurred, and contact the person using the photo and demand it be removed.
Digital identity theft isn’t only about stolen photos, though. Thanks to information posted on social media, hackers can often piece together enough information to steal your child’s identity, something that you might not even realize until they are old enough to apply for their own credit. Facts like full names, date of birth, where they were born, and where they go to school can all give hackers what they need to steal your child’s identity.
Location-based services can also endanger your child. Not too long ago, parents were advised to remove the geo-tagging feature from their phone cameras, since criminals could pinpoint the exact location where the photo was taken, potentially endangering your child.
There have even been reports of child predators using social media to find children who may be isolated, depressed, or have other issues that would make them more likely to respond to the advances of a “friend.” A major source of this information? Social media posts.
No parent wants to ever endanger their child, even by accident, so what can you do to keep them safe while still using social media?
Keeping Kids Safe and Social
Parents have a number of tools at their disposal for keeping their kids safe online. By combining them with caution, you can safely post about your kids.
- Use privacy settings. Set your privacy settings to the highest level, so that only your contacts can see what you post. Be sure that you’ve locked the settings so that others cannot share or download your photos.
- Use custom settings. When you post on Facebook, you can create custom settings so that only a specific audience is able to see your posts. Create a group specifically for posts related to your kids so that only people you trust can see them.
- Ignore requests. Unless you know someone well, do not accept their friend requests. If you post about your kids on Twitter or Instagram, set your privacy so that you can approve or deny follow requests.
- Use internet security software. All of the privacy settings in the world aren’t going to help if a hacker gains access to your computer. Install internet security protection to block hackers and viruses, and use strong passwords on all of your accounts.
- Discuss social media with others. If others take photos of your child, such as at a birthday party, ask them not to post the photos on their social media pages. Respect others’ preferences regarding photos of their kids online as well.
- Never post compromising or embarrassing photos. Yes, your baby is adorable in the bath. Save that photo to show Grandma in person. Don’t post anything with nudity online.
- Keep some things to yourself. Avoid sharing details about your kids that could be used by a predator.
Social media is a useful tool, but you have to be cautious when you bring your kids into it. You can still share those adorable baby snapshots, but be careful and consider the dangers before you do.