Want to share a picture of your child online? Think twice

Digital security experts warn against the dangers of “sharenting”

LONDON (Bywire News) - These days, children leave their digital footprint before they are even born. A recent study showed that, by the age of 13, most kids have around 1,300 pictures and videos of them posted by their parents.

“Reports of child abuse images online increased by 50% during the lockdown. This can be explained by the increased time both kids and adults spend online. That is why we need to pay special attention to the security of our children’s images on social media,” online security expert at NordVPN Daniel Markuson comments.

A shocking real-life example

The mother of an 8-month-old boy shared her story with Glamour UK magazine. She told how she stumbled upon a man’s Instagram account with a bio that read: “I like girls and kids. Message me.” The man was sharing pictures of a range of different kids on his Instagram stories. It was clear for the woman that those kids were not his as she saw an image of a fully dressed little girl with a caption “open your legs wider little girl” on the feed.

This mother stumbled upon one of the worst places a child’s picture can end up online. However, there are some other threats of “sharenting”, the practice of parents posting their children’s pictures on social media.

What are the dangers of “sharenting”?

The main concern with posting pictures on the internet is that nobody knows where they can end up once the photos are shared. Multiple “likes” and “shares” could send pictures to random people, and, once they are on someone else's hard disk, it’s impossible to remove them.

“Studies estimate that, by 2030, most identity fraud cases will be connected to “sharenting” because many parents share sensitive information about their children (like full names, birth dates, and places) alongside photos,” Daniel Markuson from NordVPN adds.

There are also some legal risks associated with the phenomenon. In some legal systems, such as France and Germany, children own the right to their own images so photos cannot be posted without their permission. In the US, this is not the case, but the sharing itself can be seen as abuse if it is done inappropriately (like in the case of the YouTuber DaddyOFive, when the videos were used as evidence of abusive behavior).

How to keep children’s photos safe

“It is better not to post pictures of your children online for the reasons mentioned above. However, if you do decide to post them, here are some useful tips,” says Markuson and provides some useful tips for parents:

  • Change your social media privacy settings to “friends-only”. Restrict your posts so that only your friends and followers can see them.
  • Talk to your close friends and family about privacy. Ask your close ones not to share the photos you posted. Enable the function that doesn’t allow others to share your photos on Facebook.
  • Make your social media more private. Don’t let unknown people add you as a friend on Facebook or follow you on Instagram.
  • Turn off metadata and geotagging for your photos. Both metadata and geotagging can help to determine your child’s location.
  • Don't include other data that outsiders could use to identify your kids, such as their full names, date of birth, or the school they attend. Use nicknames or descriptive phrases instead.
  • No nude or semi-nude photos of your kids should be posted online.

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