As parents, we worry about the safety of our kids. These days, modern technology and social media platforms make it even harder to protect their identities. Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and other social media websites make it easy for people around the globe to share memories. Sadly, they also make it convenient for identity thieves and other criminals to use other people’s pictures for nefarious purposes.
It’s difficult to restrict how your pictures are used once you put them online. It’s even harder if you are not tech-savvy. Uninformed users may not be aware that the way you share data can expose your children to cyber-predators. Here are three things you need to know to protect your children before sharing their photos online.
- Beware of the GPS tagging. Posting pictures of children on Facebook has become an everyday practice. Many parents upload pictures that have been taken at home with their cell phones. What many parents don’t know is if the GPS (global positioning system) has been enabled on their phone, it is possible that an interested party could find out their precise location.
Photos taken with a digital device, especially one that has GPS technology, have tags that can give away your personal information. The time you took the photo and your exact location can be disclosed through these geo tags. Strictly speaking, if you snap a picture at home on your camera phone, it is possible that a stranger could find where you live.
This doesn’t mean you should never upload another picture again. There is one way to protect your privacy, and diminish your chances of falling prey to a predator. Disable the GPS on your smartphone or tablet before taking a picture. Keep it disabled when you upload the photo online. Be aware of what information is being transmitted before you post your photos.
- Beware of image misappropriation. Did you hear about the soldier’s picture that was stolen from MySpace, and posted on Match.com? The image was copied to open a fake account on Match.com, ultimately scamming a woman from Czech Republic out of thousands of dollars. Sadly, this is just one of many stories of people who have fallen victim to image misappropriation.
If your pictures have public visibility, they can be used and abused by perfect strangers. It is very easy to assume the likeness and the identity of someone else with just one picture.
The best way to feel secure about the photos you share is to be certain with whom you are sharing. That way, stranger danger can be considerably lowered. Ensure your children’s photos are safe by applying these rules:
- Double check your privacy settings on social media websites. Facebook, for example, allows their users to control who can see their photos. You can select everyone, friends of friends, or friends. These options can be changed under the privacy settings tab.
- A TRUSTe study showed that 42% of teenagers accepted friend requests from people they didn’t know. If you have a list of hundreds, odds are, you have added some “friends” you don’t know that well either. Review and modify, not only your list, but the friends list of your allies. Even if you are careful with your private information, your family and friends will have to do the same.
- Beware of oversharing. Although more and more people are becoming concerned about online privacy, many others offer an excessive amount of personal information. We lose control of the data that we disclose when we put it online. There are three security issues to keep in mind:
- Don’t share photos that reveal personal information, e.g. your daughter wearing a T-shirt that says the name of her school. Mentioning your child’s full name, or birthday and birth year is a no-no. Furthermore, your child’s address should never be given away. You don’t want someone breaking into your house because a creep noticed your address online.
- Avoid posting embarrassing pictures of your kids. You may think a shot of your son sitting naked in the bath with a shampoo Mohawk is funny now, but it could be humiliating for him in the future. Facial recognition technology can identify a person from a digital image. 20 years down the road, your pictures may still be available online. Prospective employers could come across a compromising photo that could damage your son’s reputation.
- Google Image Search can trace your children’s photos anywhere on the web. Upload a picture and the search engine will find the same image, even if the photo has been cropped or resized. If the same picture is posted anywhere else on the internet, Google will pull it up. Many people have been shocked to discover that their children’s profile pictures have been used without permission. It’s a disturbing thought, but it’s a good idea to investigate if another site is using your child’s image in an unauthorized manner.
Educate yourself about the permissions social media sites require, and protect your children’s information. Confidential data is valuable, so upload responsibly to ensure the well-being of your kids.