5 TIPS TO KEEP KIDS’ PHOTOS SAFE
With National Child Protection Week launched earlier this month, there’s been a fair bit of talk about our children’s behaviour online and the associated risks of “being online”.
The percentage of kids in Australia that still share personal information online is high at 39 percent!
EQUALLY DISTURBING IS TO HEAR THAT ADULTS DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT.
I just read a piece of research conducted this year which polled 30,000 internet users from around the globe (including Australia) in an effort to learn more about users’ views on privacy, encryption, and security.
The report shared that less than 10% of adults know how to protect themselves online, with 1/3 feeling they have no control over their online information.
NOW THAT REALLY SURPRISES ME! HOW CAN OUR KIDS LEARN FROM US WHEN WE DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO PROTECT OURSELVES ONLINE?
PROTECTING PHOTOS ONLINE
I believe – as many others do, I’m sure – that your photos, and any words associated with them, are your personal information. This is true whether you, or someone else, has control of them.
We all know that schools and other child-focused organisations who look after our kids must be vigilant when collecting and managing children’s images, and (particularly if they are bound by the Privacy Act 1988 or equivalent state/ territory legislation) this includes protecting those images from:
- unauthorised access
- loss or destruction
If they don’t, they are at risk of receiving complaints from us parents, being responsible for a potentially serious data breach, attracting unfavourable scrutiny from a privacy regulator (if a complaint or data breach escalates to that level) and, worse, loss of trust from the community they serve.
But what about parents? At least at home, while we have some influence over online behaviours and attitudes, we are responsible for educating our kids about protecting their digital identities today and into the future.
I am sure everyone reading this has heard of the recent debacle that occurred when Harvard rescinded offers to students due to their “offensive” social media profiles.
Outside of the personal ‘good reputation’ issues this may have raised for those students, there is a more sinister concern: the more a stranger (or even a ‘known’ adult or other young person) can collect about your child, the more harm they can potentially do – such as engaging in:
- predatory behaviours
- sexting-based offences (sometimes committed by other children)
- identity fraud or theft
- scamming and so on
In this context, I thought I’d share some tips I’ve discovered for better protecting photos online, which may be a great way to start (or re-open) an online safety talk with your kids.
I’ve spent a lot of time researching this topic so my company can better support its clients with a sustainable, long-term solution to image management protection.
MY TOP 5 TIPS
1. ABSTAIN MAINSTREAM
IF YOU CAN AVOID IT, TRY NOT TO POST YOUR IMAGES ON MAINSTREAM ONLINE CHANNELS!
There is no better way to protect your images than by, simply, not placing them in a publicly accessible location online. For many (and particularly young people, given that social media is increasingly integral to their relationships and communications), this is the least desirable option, as it could be seen to prevent the meaningful exchange of memories and ideas within a person’s social community. However, if you absolutely must “hang it all out there”, be selective, and think.
“Am I happy for this image to reflect who I am – my character – for years to come?” and “Would I be comfortable if this image of me appeared in a newspaper being read by my family, friends, teachers, workmates and employer?”
2. SELECTIVE USE
SELECTIVELY PERMIT OTHERS TO USE, COPY OR DOWNLOAD YOUR PHOTOS BY COMMUNICATING CLEAR RESTRICTIONS UP FRONT
Some social media sites try to support this idea through active “privacy settings” for users and their images. However, this does not prevent a screenshot of an image being taken, nor does it really prevent people who have been allowed access to an image from using or distributing the image once they have a copy.
WATERMARK YOUR IMAGE BY PLACING A “COPY PROHIBITED” OR SIMILAR OVERLAY ON THE IMAGE
The text on your image may be annoying, but it’s a good deterrent. Watermarks can be created using Photoshop (which uses Digimarc – for a fee) or similar programs.
This generally means that, when images are downloaded, your actual image is not shown; rather, there is an image in the foreground or potentially a blank image in its place.
5. LOW-RESOLUTION PHOTOS
POST ONLY LOW-RESOLUTION IMAGE FILES TO SOCIAL MEDIA
Other online locations, a screenshot or download will only capture an image with low quality (which others are less likely to want to keep). This doesn’t really address issues relating to privacy, though, as the image would still be “out there” (even if it is a poor one).
I know that protecting photos is only one piece of the puzzle when talking about securing a person’s digital identity and that the best approach is to limit the sharing of personal information online full stop (that includes images and everything else).
However, because the world we live in is increasingly digital and, particularly for our kids, rarely ever socially-relevant unless it is online, there is a careful balance to be struck.
There are businesses like Digimarc and my own company that offer various solutions to help organisations and individuals protect their images online. It is my company’s mission to help protect the digital identity of our kids.