AUSTRALIA, TIME TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT SHARING CHILDREN’S IMAGES ONLINE
With both National Child Protection and eSmart Week happening next week, it should go without saying that sensitive information that directly identifies a person – like photo-sharing – should be done with caution, especially of children. Yet recent statistics shared are still startling…
McAfee research shows 30% of Australian parents use social media to post a photo/video of their child at least once a week (12% at least once a day), however, less than 30% are concerned about the consequences even though 71% know the image may end up in the wrong hands.
In the US by the time a child is 2, 90% already have a social media presence. A 2017 study found “when children appear in Facebook photos, 45.2% of the posts also mention the child’s first name, and 6.2% reference the child’s date of birth, allowing all viewers to establish the exact age of the child”. The same research quoted that on Instagram, 63% of parents referenced their child’s first name in at least one photo in their stream, 27% of parents reference their child’s date of birth, and 19% shared both pieces of information.
The UN warns parents that photo sharing of their children on social media was putting their human rights at risk. Isn’t it now time we took a closer look at how our own behaviours are affecting our children’s future, and the future of other children around us…which is also placing our schools at greater risk!
LESS THAN 50% OF PARENTS ASK PERMISSION
Less than 50% of all parents ask their own child’s permission before posting. And this poor habit of online photo sharing without consent extends beyond parents posting their own child’s image. How many times has someone shared a photo of your child without your knowledge, or if you had the knowledge, didn’t ask your consent before posting? For me, this has happened so many times throughout my daughter’s life, even though as parents we try very hard to communicate we do not want her photo shared online. It is often the attitudes of “Get over it, no one cares?” and “What are you worried about?” that drives many to decide on our behalf and effectively have an impact on our child’s digital identity.
Thinking of when Facebook began, an emerging generation is now getting closer to adulthood. This generation doesn’t know a life without social media and has a social media footprint which they have had little say over – it will be interesting to see the evolving legal consequences of that!
Isn’t it time we took care of our children’s digital identity? After all, we are their custodians.
Letting others know we don’t want our daughter’s photo shared online clearly hasn’t worked for us. And seriously, what are the risks?
Well, I’ve personally heard stories ranging from paedophilia, stalking, cyberbullying, image-based abuse, long-term emotional harm, identity theft and even kidnapping. Our own eSafety Commission warns that half of all images on paedophile image-sharing sites originate from social media sites and blogs.
These images, which are downloaded in the thousands, are mainly used to create fantasy stories. They don’t have to be promiscuous to attract attention.
Ask before sharing!
When parents are warned to reduce child harm online, they are typically told to change some simple access controls. But that only addresses the surface. What is required is a change in behaviour: to ask before posting “Is this image appropriate?”, “Will this photo upset a child or parent if I publish it?”, “Is it giving away too much information?”. If you think it does, then please don’t post it. If unsure, ask before posting.
Here are 4 more tips:
- Source a photo management platform that cares about privacy, like pixevety, to get greater control over photo sharing. pixevety is a unique privacy-focused photo management platform. Families can sign up to a basic plan for FREE. They can manage image permissions/consent, filter images before sharing online, set strict access and privacy settings, add watermarking features and the ability to communicate their image privacy wishes with others (i.e. “please don’t share photos of my daughter on social media”). All content is kept in Australia protected by Australian privacy law and is never sold to third parties.
- Carefully select the photos you share (i.e. no full-frontal face shots, no swimwear, obviously no nudity) as everything posted online is saved in cache files that are stored all over the world – once you upload photos “online” you lose complete control over them.
- Make sure photos shared are unidentifiable, so strangers cannot use any personal information regarding your child(ren) to their advantage i.e. no full name, birth date, school name, home address etc.
- Only post low-resolution photos and make sure they’re resized to web-quality, so no one can tamper with them.
If photos are already posted, it’s impossible to get Facebook or Instagram to simply take them down. Here are some suggestions on how to approach the people who posted:
- Simply ask them to delete it, or at least hide your child’s face
- If they want to keep the photo online and are happy to edit out your child’s face, ask them not to tag your child’s name or share location data.
- Finally, you can always suggest another channel such as a private photo-sharing platform (again like pixevety) that allows them to easily and privately share with friends & family
Isn’t it time we all did a better job in protecting a child’s future and not share photos or videos that identify them in a way that could cause them harm?
Thank you for caring enough to read this blog. I am the CEO of pixevety, a new consent-driven photo management platform for schools and families focused on child digital identity protection.