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  • Durham OnAir

Durham OnAir investigates The dangers of posting pictures of your children online

The average parent shares almost 1,500 images of their child before their fifth birthday, and more than 80% of children will have an online presence by the age of two. A 2018 study by Barclays Bank forecast that "sharenting" will account for two-thirds of identity fraud affecting young people by the decade’s end, producing 7.4 million incidents by 2030.

With Christmas coming up, and an expected surge in family Christmas snaps, cyber security experts at VPNOverview have outlined the seven greatest dangers when it comes to the growing phenomenon of sharing photos and videos of children, referred to as ‘sharenting’.

Sharenting is the regular posting of photos of children on social media. For some, It is seen as a modern-day scrapbook of memories for friends and family to enjoy. For first-time parents, sharenting can also be a great way to build a community, share parenting advice and connect with other families. However, the habitual use of these platforms, which often have minimal privacy protection, is worrying. Below are the main dangers associated with posting photos and videos of your children online:

  1. 1. No such thing as ‘private’

Most parents who post pictures of their children online will be doing so on a privacy-protected social media account. Unfortunately, these privacy settings offer a false sense of security. Even photos of your children posted on closed accounts can be screenshotted and redistributed to larger audiences. It has become increasingly clearer that as soon as you post something online, you’ve effectively lost control over it. Even home cameras or baby monitors can all generate digital data that could end up in the wrong hands.

  1. 2. Digital kidnapping

Identity theft is a major risk associated with sharenting. Parents may unknowingly be putting their children at risk by including confidential information. These stats are a testament to this:

  • 45.2% of posts that feature children on Facebook, also mention the child’s name.

  • 19% of posts on Instagram that feature children reference both name and date of birth. If this data were to be combined with social security information obtained illegally on the dark web, digital kidnapping would become a serious risk.

  1. 3. Sexual exploitation

Where there are children online, there are sexual predators. Investigators looking into child abuse online have found that tens of millions of photos of children shared on social media resurface on pornographic platforms. Even if the material itself is not explicit, the commentary on them often is on these platforms. Moreover, the photos could be digitally manipulated to take on a sexual nature. As a parent, you must be mindful of what you post. Posting holiday snaps from the beach with your child in swimwear can seem innocent, but the image can easily be abused.

  1. 4. Emotional harm

Despite a parent’s good intentions, kids may grow up to be embarrassed by certain online content posted without their consent. The negative consequences of a digital footprint may only follow years after the fact, but in some cases, public humiliation on social media is used as a parenting technique. In 2016, an 18-year-old girl in Austria sued her parents for sharing over 500 photos of her with their Facebook friends. She claimed that these photos, depicting her in extremely personal ways, have had very negative real-life consequences.

  1. 5. Metadata

Digital photos of your children, as it turns out, say more about them than you might think. Metadata is attached to each photo that we post on social media sites and tells third parties all sorts of things about what is in the photo, where it was taken, and what type of person posted it. Data brokers work hard to build social profiles of internet users allowing companies to build a digital dossier on users that tells them exactly what they are most likely to click on. The manipulative power of these types of systems is far-reaching and dangerous, especially regarding children’s data. Letting information about your child become subject to surveillance is risky.

  1. 6. Online permanence

Many big tech companies have terms and conditions that give them the rights to user-generated content. By posting photos on social media, you are effectively handing over ownership of your photos to corporate companies, which makes removing photos very difficult. These photos of your children can live on forever on the internet, giving a sense of permanence to a child’s identity.

Could future employers or university admissions offices deny your child future opportunities because they have found an online video of your child having a tantrum? It is difficult to look into the future and know for certain what could happen to the photographs and videos of your children, but you must ask yourself if it is worth the risk.

  1. 7. Lack of legislation

There is little to no regulation for sharing photos online. You might be able to access a website’s privacy policy, but chances are these will be long and incomprehensible. Getting a photograph removed may prove to be quite difficult unless you suspect sexual exploitation. In the UK, The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) was created to protect children from sexual abuse online. Parents can contact CEOP to report any online grooming or sexual abuse.

A spokesperson from VPNOverview commented:

“In this fast-evolving world of social media, sharenting can have serious consequences. Children are exposed to dangers as their parents set boundaries on their behalf regarding social media. While these dangers are worth considering, there are certainly ways you can safely share pictures of your family life online if you remain conscious of the possible consequences and consider the position of your child. The top five ways to go about this are as follows:

  • Switch to private emails instead of sharing content on social media

  • Avoid nudity and partial nudity

  • Limit confidential information

  • Get your child’s consent

  • Never share photos of other people’s children”

VPNOverview are a dedicated team of cybersecurity and privacy professionals offering guidance on these topics in the most accessible way possible.


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