This post is not directly related to our usual topics of multiculturalism and cross-border families but because many of us who live far from home rely heavily on social media to stay in touch with family and friends at home, it is particularly relevant for TheGlobalUs crowd. Enjoy and leave us some comments at the end to share your own views.
Many of you have asked why I took all the photos of my kids off line.
When you live far from home, you think you need social media to stay connected, to keep the family filled in with news or you just experience a lot of cool things that you want to share. I have been there too, there is nothing wrong about it and it totally makes sense. The further away the more chances we are oversharing.
Few months ago my son who is just 4 saw me looking at my smartphone and asked what I was doing. I showed him my Facebook timeline and here is what he said to me:
“mom I don’t like these pictures of me don’t show them to anyone”
It was too late, I had posted them on Facebook and on Instagram. Oh and no I didn’t ask him for his permission of course. Mother knows best…
Well, that was a wake up call. Before putting images of my family that will be out there forever I thought I should give it a bit more thoughts. Since then, I have reduced the number of friends I had on Facebook, deleted all the pictures I had posted, ended up closing my Facebook account and Instagram, re-opened my Facebook account few months later (!) and read a lot about this topic. Here is the conclusion.
The issue with privacy settings
Sure, as you read this you are mentally running through your security settings on Facebook and if you have done it well you may be somewhat confident that you are all covered.
The answer to this is easy and there is no way around: once you share something on social media you need to start worrying about the privacy settings of all the people who can see what you have shared.
Once someone with loose privacy settings likes, comments or shares your picture, you can consider it the property of the world. It is out there forever. Period.
Don’t ignore the warnings
In a recent survey of social media awareness, conducted by the University of Michigan, over 74 per cent of respondents claimed they had doubts about posting baby images on the web, however they followed the crowd and did it anyway.
Worryingly, 51 per cent of parents offer up personal information alongside their photos that could identify a child’s location and 27 per cent have shared inappropriate pictures of their baby.
I had a moment of panic while I was researching on the topic when I realized that there are thousands of child porn websites out there who steal random people’s children pictures. Sex offenders do search profiles and download pictures and there is no way this can be prevented or tracked.
There are also real cases of identity theft and kidnapping taking roots in social media oversharing. It is actually quite easy to figure out someone’s physical location and their life routine such as their running course, supermarkets, restaurants they frequently go to or the school their kids go to.
“There are two things to be careful about,” says Victoria Nash, acting director of the Oxford Internet Institute. “One is the amount of information that you give away, which might include things like date of birth, place of birth, the child’s full name, or tagging of any photographs with a geographical location – anything that could be used by somebody who wanted to steal your child’s identity.
Imagine a stranger walking up to your kid and starting to talk about all those things they are familiar with ” your mom told me you had a great meal at x restaurant yesterday, and how was the playdate last weekend ? ”
The insidious danger of letting too many people know too many things about our lives can be something you will regret forever.
The consent issue
Imagine your entire life was documented through photos, videos and text, and accessible to X number of people whom you may or may not be close to.
This is the issue our children will have to deal in just a little more than a decade with if we continue doing what we are doing.
We all think our children are beautiful, adorable, funny and cute. Wait till they reach teenage to see how they’ll feel about the way we have presented their image to the world.
We usually select the best pictures of ourselves, take many shots before picking one and even sometimes modify the pictures before posting them yet when we post a picture of our kids they have no say about what goes out there.We are setting up a life-lasting digital trail that will end up displayed god knows where without the little ones’ permission.
How fair is that ?
I am guilty of having posted pictures of my children with funny faces, crying or doing weird things and although it is all gone now, I am not 100% confident that it will not come back up one day.
Branding your children and your relationship
The way we innocently describe people and relationships today in social media will magnify the perception children have of themselves and their world as they grow up. A self-fulfilling prophecy of some sort. Harmless comments such as “LO is such a cranky baby”, ” this kid is a bully”…may be molding the perception our children will have of themselves later on. They won’t remember every single moment of their childhood and as we all do, they will often rely on the documented memories we have nicely stored for them on internet to build their personality.
Do not post anything that could influence your child’s self-perception.
I see a lot of parents complaining about parenthood on social media and I plead guilty of the same sin. Simple comments like “today I could barely take a shower and have been cooked up at home with baby all day doing some chores”, can be taken out of context by an insecure teenager as an evidence of lack of love years later.
Teaching our children to exercise an appropriate level of discretion.
How do you expect your kids to learn discretion and understand how over-exposing themselves on social media can be dangerous if you are sharing every single life event on your own profiles ?
Taking digital ownership
Data protection and personal information protection laws may currently be protecting us from fraudulent or abusive use of our private information but there is no guarantee it will always be this way. Not to mention the risks of personal and private information being hacked or leaked…
Some parents are actually taking this a step further by running potential baby names through domain and keyword searches to ensure there is no negative content linked to it before they make their final decision.
You can also own the name’s digital footprint by buying domain names, and registering Facebook, Twitter and so on.
I have done that for my children. It sounds silly but I like the thought that nobody else can now stain their name on internet.
Is it really gone ?
As a repented mother, I have deleted every digital trail of my children’ short-lived social media fame months ago but I can’t help thinking that some pictures or videos may still be hidden in a dark secret corner of the internet.
I haven’t researched on this topic much so this may not be true but I remember reading somewhere that Facebook and other social media may be keeping their users data for years even after it has been deleted.
Better safe than sorry
Blogging and finding the happy medium
As in many of the decisions I make, I have been quite extreme and decided to delete everything. You may think that this is quite paradoxical for someone who writes on a blog and you are right. I still need to find the right balance between what I want to discuss with my readers and what I should keep for myself. While it may be straightforward with a binary choice of sharing or not sharing when it comes to pictures or videos, it gets tricky when talking about life experiences, feelings and opinions.
One can definitely argue that these can also have lasting impact on children and close relative in the same way as family members in biographies have felt violated in their privacy.
I would love to hear your view on this particular topic. How do you maintain a blog while protecting your family from negative consequences ?
Please share this post and write down a comment below.
Looking forward to reading you !
Photo credit: Police in Germany created a viral hit this week when they put out an urgent appeal for people to stop stripping children of their privacy. The appeal, from police in Hagen, was posted, appropriately enough, on Facebook.