3 reasons why online privacy may be the best gift we can give our children

I was recently asked to complete a survey about children (say, under 13) and blogging and I’ve 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  questions  for us to consider when we are sharing our children – or “oversharenting” –  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 and the appropriate advice is that anyone who has content online should have given informed consent. 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, it is debatable whether they can comprehend potential ramifications of a growing digital footprint or what it means to see themselves on the web.

2. We cannot always control the information we post

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 that ‘informed consent’? How might they feel years later to have photos, notes, information, stories etc shared about them in public from when they were small?

3. We want to model effective cybersafe practice

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, we probably don’t want our children to have their name, address, location or school linked to their image even if we have decided to post their photos up there. This is not about ‘weirdos’ wandering around – this is about the longevity of data in the public domain and the ease of access to people we know.

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 understand the power of collaborative learning that is enabled by web tools and games. 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.

Perhaps we should allow our children to 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…;-)

Further debate

For more information…

[Image source: WoodcraftPlans.com]

3 thoughts on “3 reasons why online privacy may be the best gift we can give our children

  1. There is always a balance to be had with this issue. My cousin placed multiple photos of her cesarean birth from all angles on her Facebook album- it made me squirm- have no idea what the child will think when she is old enough to know better.

    Almost everyone with kids has the kids’ photos as their Facebook ID photo- too shy to put their own photos up so use their kids.

    But then I put children’s photos, with their parents’ permission, on our class blog- with identifiers of the child’s name and school. I am careful not to include photos that I think are in any way suspect or derogatory and if a child themselves does not want an individual photo put on line then obviously it stays not public.

    If a child can build a fabulous digital footprint that googles well, that would be a good thing. Better to model and scaffold from an early age- not sure what that age is though.

    I do worry that I give too much away in forums like Twitter and personal blog. Not sure what someone with evil intentions could do with that information. A different cousin was a victim of identity theft and he has zero on line presence.

    Now I will lie awake at night worrying!!! 😦


  2. i am not on good terms with my bub’s father, but his family adore my wee one and so i have a flickr site for him with the most stringent controls i could find there.. am still in two minds about sharing his development online though because, as you say, he hasn’t given me his consent.. so yes. am agreeing with this. almost wish the internet wasn’t what it is sometimes!


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