Kids as Young as Two Have an Online History

May 09, 2013

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Baby Boy Typing

Remember when you brought your first date home? My siblings delighted in showing her embarrassing photos of me. Well, there isn't much reason to pull out the ole photo album anymore. Most people can "friend" you or your family members online or just find your public profile to see many pics or details you may have wanted to keep private.

This trend now affects everyone. In fact, one recent study said 92 percent of kids under the age of 2 already have a digital footprint. Kids that age are too young to post online by themselves of course, it's their parents and/or siblings that have created their digital profile.

It starts with the ultrasound pic announcing pregnancy. Then you read live Tweets during birth, divulging the exact date and time of the baby's birth. Once online, information cannot be easily removed.

As a child grows, the excited parents' online friends will see updates about potty-training and funny first words. This happens years before baby even knows about social media sites.

What happens when the child becomes a teen and signs up for Facebook? Will his mom "tag" him in his ultrasound picture?

This trend of openly sharing our lives online is new ground. Social media has only really been around for a few years. Today’s thirteen year-olds wouldn’t have had their ultrasound pics posted on Facebook, Tumblr or Instagram. But parents now upload personal information all the time.

There are many types of professionals who make a living finding and using your personal information. They range from identity thieves, hackers, private detectives, bounty hunters, and even skiptracers.

What's a skiptracer? One of our Net Nanny Community fans, Carolynn Y, is a skiptracer. Her job is to find personal information, for any number of purposes. A skiptracer is similar to aprivate investigator.

Carolyn said: "I find people for a living; I find most people through their children who post their cell phone numbers on their open access Facebook pages. In fact, when I am trying to find someone, I go to Facebook and look for a person's "young" relatives. They almost always have their privacy settings loose and they either post their number on their wall (especially when they get new ones) OR they post their numbers on their best friend's posts. I find them there too."

So what’s a proud parent to do? Should you share every detail about your kids online? Maybe. But you have to be very careful about what and with whom you share.

Two suggestions:

1) Invite trusted family and friends to a private blog, on the condition they never repost or share the details you share.

2) If you really need to post something on Facebook, post it to a select group of friends, not your entire friend list. Don't make your profile public.

Based on what's done today, this might sound paranoid. But, I believe it's a sound practice.

These safety measures aren’t foolproof, of course. One unscrupulous friend can post or tag you in an embarrassing photo anytime. But it’s better than going down the path we are all on.

To read a related, somewhat frightening story (mostly fictional) that I shared previously, see the following article: Your Online Privacy (Or Lack Thereof). This discusses what might happen in the future when companies recruit new employees or insurance companies research customers. With thousands of details available online, a potential employee or customer can't hide the facts about their life.

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