I was recently asked to complete a survey about children (say, under 13) and blogs: are they are good idea (blogs, not the children)? Is there a benefit in children blogging, what are the issues and so on. I have also had a conversation this week about people posting photos of their children online behind limited or no privacy settings.
Is this post a hysterical reaction – or common sense? Here are three good reasons why you should think twice before sharing your children with the world:
1. Our children have not chosen to be online
This one is pretty obvious. Little humans they may be (and gosh, they can be annoying at times), but they still have rights. Even schools have to cover themselves, with various permission forms, before they post images of students online. Should parents consider similar issues? Even if our children enjoy seeing themselves online, they have no idea of the ramifications of the internet and cannot know what it means to see themselves on the web.
2. We cannot control the information we post up
Yes, we can choose our settings and our controls. We can tick the boxes and run checks. But once the photo is in the cloud, it’s there, somewhere in the ether, forever. How large a digital footprint do we want to create for our children without their say so?
3. It is scarily easy to track people down via information on the web
Is it too much to suggest that an identified child on the net is the same as a child wearing a t-shirt bearing their name, address etc, wandering around in a big city? We do not know who sees our images or our children’s images, who stores our information, or how easily we can be found. So, yes, you wouldn’t want your child to have their name, address, location or school linked to their image even if you have decided to post their photos up there.
Yet, here’s the rub.
We live in an online world, and we share our lives with our loved ones via the web as naturally as we used to send them copies of the school photos in the mail. We are a highly mobile lot, who rarely live close to our folks anymore. What about Grandma in the UK who never sees her grandchildren? Or the ante-natal group of mums who bond online, sharing news, views and shots of their bubs doing mad stuff, to keep themselves sane?
I would be recommending the obvious: if images of your children must be posted online, ensure you have the tightest security settings you can, don’t refer to them by name and give all that personal information a second thought.
Let your children define their own digital shadow when they are old enough. Then at least, when we are lecturing – sorry, supporting – them about cybersafety, we can say we tried to set an example back in the day…;-)
[Image source: WoodcraftPlans.com]