As proud parents we’re often guilty of clogging our friends’ and families’ Facebook and Instagram feeds with pictures of our kids, but many cyber safety and parenting experts are concerned about where these images can end up.
Everyday photos of children engaging in simple activities are being used as sexual contraband by paedophiles online. It’s not just nude photos of kids that we need to be worried about posting. Whilst this is distressing, sadly it’s the reality that we’re facing as modern parents.
Innocent photos of children engaging in everyday activities that are posted by proud family members are being downloaded and sexualised by paedophiles, according to Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, Alastair MacGibbon.
Images of children in school uniforms, playing down at the park or the beach, doing their homework, doing other everyday things that people have uploaded on public social media sites like Facebook and Instagram have then been doctored or used in chat forums where pedophiles write about their fantasies.
Paedophiles are trawling open social media accounts and downloading or screenshotting images to then use for sexual gratification and then repurposing these images on photo sharing sites.
Mr MacGibbon used an analogy to illustrate the invasion of privacy taking place on the internet.
“It’s akin really, to you walking home and finding a sex offender sitting in your lounge room, going through your home photo albums,” he said.
There’s also increased numbers of tweens taking and sharing sexualized images of themselves and these are being accessed and curated by pedophiles.
So do we avoid posting images online altogether? Sharing photos of children has become accepted practice, so banning this practice is not a viable solution. Telling parents not to post photos isn’t the answer. We need to come up with more practical solutions that also protects our children’s privacy. Here are my suggestions below:
How do you protect your child’s photos online?
//Use privacy settings on social media accounts. Ensure you have the most up-to-date privacy settings installed on your social media accounts. Remember, these change frequently, so every couple of months, schedule some time to check in and review your settings.
//Have a small number of people you know and trust as followers– if you want to share images online via social media, set up a private account and only approve people that you know and trust.
//Post conservatively- Avoid the temptation of uploading every image from an event. Select a few key photos, not an entire collage, to minimise any potential risks.
//Disable location services– this prevents geotagging that can provide precise location details such as GPS co-ordinates (this is code that’s embedded in the photo’s meta-data).
//Don’t use hashtags– this can make it much easier for predators to search for photos.
//Set up private online albums. Use more secure, password-protected photo-sharing services such as Flickr, Photobucket, or Famipix. There are also app alternatives such as Tiny Beans or Cluster. These web and app alternatives let you be more discriminate about what images you share and with whom. Be aware that these sites sometimes charge a fee for premium services such as extra storage and prints and/or offer in-app purchases. And there are also potential security breach risks too. So again, these are not a completely safe alternative, but definitely a much better choice than open, social media accounts.
//Establish a Media Management Policy in your family (decide is it okay to post pictures of your little ones online? Where will you post these pictures? Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? Will you tag photos? How many photos will you post? Are there any types of photos that you don’t want to be posted (i.e. nude photos, upset children, children in bathrooms etc)?
//Don’t post them online (post them snail mail). This is the only guaranteed way to protect your child’s images online. Go old school, print out photos and send them to friends and family.
Doctoring images of children is not right, but sadly it’s life in the digital age. We have to minimize any potential risks.
Dr Kristy delivers seminars to parents throughout Australia. Find out more about what Dr Kristy talks to parents and educators about by clicking on the image below.
I talk to parents throughout Australia about screen-time and how parents can help their children use technology in healthy and helpful ways (and also minimise any potential risks). Click here to find out more.