What’s the harm in posting some photos?
Parents tend to be very careful with how their children use technology, which makes sense, you’re never too young to learn how to use the internet responsibly. But, despite this, there is also a large amount of parents that seem to disregard their children’s privacy when posting their photos online, with some researchers going as far as to call Facebook a modern day baby book.
“The current generation of parents had a clean slate when thy first went online – The next generation will inherit a persistent online identity created for them by their parents, likely started before they were born.” – Ammari, Kumar, Lampe, Shoenebeck (2015)
This brings up two important points:
- Posting online in such a public space, it allows information about the child to be easily archived.
- It compromises the child’s privacy and hinders their ability to hide their online presence in the future. This would make it more difficult for them to erase their online footprint should they decide they don’t want their pictures online.
To show the potential risks, a Dutch company went as far as taking random baby photos from Flickr, and putting them on mugs.
This was obviously done to make a point, the company, in fact, removes any photos upon the parent’s request.
What does the research say?
In a study conducted by Minkus, Liu, and Ross in 2015, they found 2383 accounts, with a total of 26,602 photos. Of these; 2,251 photos contained a child between the ages of 0 and 7 years old. they found that:
- 575 of these photos revealed the child’s first name
- 60 photos contained the word birthday, revealing the child’s date of birth
- 45 accounts revealed the child’s first and last name, as well as their birthday (without the child holding a Facebook account.
- By examining the parent’s Facebook account, the researchers could deduce the religious and political beliefs of the children. These beliefs normally mirror that of their parents, especially at that age.
All this is potentially very valuable information for advertisers, who start to build personas on children. This would also be valuable to anyone who would want to harm the child in some form or another.
The users tested shared an average of 2.8 photos of their children of the 20 most recently posted. Women were more likely (46%) to post photos of their children as opposed to men (23%). Women would also tend to share more photos per user.
Another researcher points to the lack of norms regarding posting about another person being as problematic. This leads to the added stress on the parent for having to decide, or in some cases literally negotiate what to do.
What can we do to combat this?
Researchers suggest a few ways you can reduce oversharing, or at the very least, protect the child’s privacy:
- You as parents should discuss what should and should not be shared. As well as discussing what can be shared with your extended family.
- In Instagram’s case, make your profile private.
- Check your Facebook privacy settings.
- Avoid sharing personally identifiable data.
The most important piece of advice they give is to think about what you post. How would certain stories, photos, or information about you make you feel if it was posted without your consent? If you are not comfortable with your post being about you, then don’t post it about your child.
Have parents gone too far on social media? Tell us what you think in the comments below.