Parents love to post about their children on social media but, by doing so, might be compromising the safety (and dignity) of their family
According to research by Nominet, parents are now sharing up to 300 pictures of their children online every year – that’s a 54% increase on last year. It means that by the age of five, there could be 1,500 photos of a child online, with the top destination for such photos being Facebook. The internet company’s Share With Care study aims to encourage parents to educate themselves about managing privacy settings.
The Parent Zone, commissioned by Nominet to conduct the research, work with companies and schools to produce products and services that make life easier for parents. They polled 2,000 parents with children from 0-13 years old, discovering that many parents lack basic privacy know-how when it comes to social media. When answering a ‘true or false’ quiz regarding Facebook’s privacy settings, 24% got all ten questions wrong.
Vicki Shotbolt, founder of The Parent Zone, said, “As this research shows, getting to grips with the privacy settings of our favourite social networking sites isn’t easy but parents could cause future embarrassment for their children – or worse, if they don’t take care. With children growing up in an increasingly digital world, we need to ensure we are one step ahead of possible risks and dangers and have a good understanding of how to avoid them.”
Worryingly, even if your privacy settings are entirely ‘locked down’, allowing no-one but friends and/or followers to view content, this may not be the case for other users. If someone else has a totally ‘open’ profile, allowing everyone and anyone to view their page, pictures they post, which might include your child, are subject to their privacy settings, not yours. Only 16% of parents questioned always asked the permission of other parents before sharing an image of their child, so it’s worth thinking about.
Nevertheless, it is possible to share pictures in a safe and sensible way. Take a look at these top tips from Nominet:
- Share with care. Whether it’s a photo of your child or a photo of your friends, always take time to consider their feelings and any possible repercussions, and if in doubt ask their permission before you post. Once a picture is uploaded to a social media site it’s very difficult to remove all traces of it, so you want to be sure beforehand.
- Regularly check your privacy settings. Social media sites frequently change their rules, so it’s important you stay up to date to stay in control. On Facebook, for example, remember that you can set different privacy settings for individual posts or photo albums if you want to, and that if you post a picture directly to a friend’s timeline, their privacy settings will apply. On Instagram, by default anyone can view your profile and posts, but you can make your posts private so that only followers you approve can see them. Likewise, on Twitter, you can choose to keep your tweets public or protect them, and there are visibility settings for some of your profile information.
- Consider who you really want to be friends with. Many of us admit that we don’t actually know some of the people we’re friends with on social media sites, yet are happy to share lots of personal information and family photos with them. If your privacy settings allow ‘friends of friends’ to see your posts, then you are potentially opening up your private life to thousands of people you’ve never met. So check your contact list every now and again, and consider removing people you don’t know.
- Talk to your children about sensible sharing. Children growing up in the social media age can be naïve about sharing private information or photos on social media sites, and aren’t necessarily aware that photos posted now could still be found online later in their lives. Keep an open dialogue about the potential risks of social media, and try to set a good example on your own profiles.
- Stay in control. While it’s tempting to use social networks as a replacement for your own photo albums or hard drive storage, it’s still a good idea to store hard copies to protect your memories in the event of any technical glitches. And remember that some social networks will obtain rights to your images once you’ve uploaded them.