If Your Child Displays Photos on Social Networks... Be Aware of These Consequences

Apr 17, 2013

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My Camera

In today's virtual world with social networks, we all seem to have forgotten that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Kids upload thousands of photos online. Facebook receives about 350,000,000 new images per day. The total number of photos on Facebook is greater than 240 billion now. (Source) I can't even comprehend that number.

One challenge related to this behavior of uploading pictures is that they have a very long shelf-life and remain online for years. You have to ask yourself: do you want those memories available that long? What if you had a change of heart, change in love interest, change in behavior, change of school, etc.? What if you want to forget that weekend, that person, that event…?

Kids don't usually think much about the future. They upload photos without considering longevity or propriety. To capitalize on this trend, social networks have evolved to feature images as the primary medium — such as Instagram, Tumblr, Voto, and Flickr. Some feature video — such as YouTube and Vine.

The challenges with uploading the barrage of photos and information are many, including these few examples:

  • College admissions boards are using social network photos and information to determine a college candidate's viability. (Source)
  • Sexual predators use social networks to find prey.
  • Gangs are using social networks to persuade attractive teens to meet, and then kidnap to work in the sex trade. (Source)
  • Pornographers are using facial recognition software to give paying customers a customized experience, and that could include your child's image. (Source)
  • Cyberbullies use social networks to taunt, tease, torment — even to the point of blackmail, death, or suicide.
  • Identity theft related to sharing too much information, including birth dates and photos — even toddlers are targeted. (Source)

What can you do to keep kids and their identities safe?

  1. Increase the "privacy" setting of your child's profile on social networks. Just let "friends" (or Friends of Friends) see personal details.
  2. Limit who can send messages to your child on their social networks. Do not let everyone have access.
  3. Use an "appropriate" profile photo. Inappropriate photos get noticed and used by the wrong crowd.
  4. Remove old photos from "public" view.
  5. Do not allow friends of friends to tag photos; only allow friends who are appropriate.
  6. Filter your child's friends network. Set up lists with privacy settings that are appropriate.
  7. Talk candidly with you child about the do's and don'ts of posting online.
  8. To be safe, do not post a birth date, full name, home address, cell number, school name, sibling / family name, pet's name, etc.

There are a few parental control software solutions on the market to help parents monitor their child's activity on social networks, including Facebook. Parents need help keeping up. Go to a software review site such as Top Ten Reviews to see their list (search for "Facebook monitoring" software).

This month, Net Nanny will release a similar product called Net Nanny Social to help parents keep track of photos, posts, and activities in social networks.

I work for Net Nanny and all opinions are my own.