Childhood is fleeting and it’s perfectly normal for parents to want to capture it and record it. However, it’s an unfortunate fact that parents sharing photos of their children online, or ‘sharenting’, can have concerning consequences for their privacy, reputation and ‘digital footprint’.
‘Sharenting’ is a term used to describe parents sharing, and sometimes oversharing images or videos of their children online with friends and family through social media.
Many young people and adults posting photos of their friends online often make assumptions that they have permission to do so, when in fact it hasn’t been given. This places importance on teaching children about consent, which then begs the question: should parents have to obtain consent from their children before posting photos of them online?
A poll published in the UK revealed that 70% of adults believe that it’s not OK to post photos of anyone else – including children – without their permission. It also showed that 56% of parents avoid ever posting images of their children online in order to protect their privacy. Of those parents who do share them over 80% feel very confident about restricting who can see those photos… to friends and family, for example.
While the majority of adults use the Internet responsibly, there are those who use it to inflict harm on others, including children. It’s therefore hugely important for parents to be aware of what can happen if their child’s photo or private information ends up in the wrong hands.
The Dangers of Posting Pictures Online
Here are the facts about posting pictures of children online:
- 50% of the images posted on paedophile sites were sourced from parents’ social media profiles
- More than 1 in 4 children admit to feeling worried, embarrassed, or anxious when their parents post photos of them on social media
- 51% of parents post information online that could lead to an identification of their child’s location at a given time
- 27% of parents share photos of their children online that could be considered inappropriate
The major danger of posting pictures online is that they can be so easily shared and downloaded – to the point where tens of millions of innocent, everyday images of children have been appropriated and used as child abuse material.
Further risks posed by sharing images online is that they can be edited to depict abusive and criminal acts, and they can also provide geolocation information that enables predators to track a child’s physical whereabouts.
So, while it’s perfectly natural to want to share your child’s adorable anecdotes, success stories, or cute school pictures with other people through social media, every parent should take the following precautions recommended by Netsafe in order to minimise the potential dangers of posting pictures online:
- Look Ahead. How might this image impact negatively on my child’s digital footprint? How might they feel about the content you’re sharing when they’re older?
- Ask For Permission. Does your photo include other peoples’ children? If yes, you need to ask for their permission. Are your children old enough to give their permission?
- Check Your Privacy Settings. Have you checked the social media platform’s settings to ensure they are not set to Public, often the default?
- Think About Who You’ve Got in Your Friend Network. Are the people in your network still known to you and you don’t mind them viewing the photo or would you prefer to set up a smaller more private network?