It is estimated that parents in the US upload over 1500 photos of their children to social media before the children turn five. 92% of two-year old toddlers already have a “digital footprint”, and one-third of all US children appear on social media within the first hours of their birth. Though similar studies have not yet been carried out in Lithuania, the observed tendencies are broadly identical: more and more parents post pictures of their children online, without really thinking of the consequences of such actions.
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Public photos may end up where you do not want them to end up

Below, Dr. Mindaugas Kiškis, a Professor at Mykolas Romeris University and a lawyer, describes the threats associated with parents sharing photos of their children on social media and considers ways in which this could be done safely.

“Rarely do parents, who are celebrating beautiful moments of their family life and sharing them on their social media, consider where these photos might end up. There are instances when photos of children, posted on social media by their parents, are then downloaded by sexual criminals, are published in child pornography websites, or used for advertisement without parental consent. Further, when parents upload private photos – for example, of their children swimming – they set a bad example for their children on which photos should be posted publicly, and which ought to remain private. This might have a negative influence on the children’s online behavior in the future. Parents should also think about the fact that, when their children get slightly older and start school, they might be bullied for some of the photos from their childhood,” warns Prof. Dr. Kiškis.

He notes that, when posting pictures online, one should remember that they may become public forever because other users can download them and store or share them without the original user’s consent.

Think about what kind of “digital footprint” you create for your child

According to Prof. Dr. Kiškis, if parents wish to protect their children from cyberthreats, they should place restrictions on who can see the information they share on social media and think carefully whether the content they are about to share is appropriate for public access.”

“First of all, parents ought to check their privacy settings and make sure that only their friends and relatives can see photos of their children. It should be noted that, even with a strict privacy policy, those who gain access to the photos can still share them on their own accounts, some of which may have weaker privacy settings. Thus, photos always may go public. Parents could consider sharing photos of their children in private groups they create specifically for this purpose, having warned beforehand that they do not want these pictures to be made public. Before posting any picture of their children online, parents should really think about what kind of a “digital footprint” they are creating for their kids and whether their children would really be happy with these photos being online, whether they would not be bullied for these photos. Lastly – parents should simply respect the privacy of their children. If they wish that their children grow up self-sufficient and self-confident, they should wait until the kids can decide for themselves about which photos should and should not go online,” advises the professor.

Undoubtedly the most popular virtual space in Lithuania, on which parents share photos of their children, is Facebook. There are several items of advice for parents who wish to do so safely:

1. Make sure that only friends can see your account information
After you log-in, the first thing you should do is to click a triangular symbol in the upper-right corner of the page and select “settings.” Then, in the upper-left corner, press “privacy.” In the settings panel that appears, select the option where only your friends can view the private information on your account (content, contact information). To make the changes, press “edit” on the right side of the window.

2. Select who can tag you in pictures
Check your settings in the “Timeline and Tagging” settings. It is recommended to make your timeline content accessible to your friends only. Further, you should turn on the function that allows you to review any tags or photos you are tagged in before they appear on Facebook. These settings can also be adjusted by clicking “Edit” on the right side of the window.

3. Do not let apps to gather your personal information
You are not the only person who can disclose your personal information – apps your friends use may do the same. To find app settings, click on “Apps” in the Facebook settings panel. After reviewing your apps, you may select the ones you do not want or do not use and delete them. Further, it is recommended to check the settings on “Apps used by others.” You can then customize what types of private information can be used by these apps. It is recommended not to mark any items on this list.

4. Do not share information with third parties
Another danger online stems from various third parties that operate on social media – apps, games, or plug-ins. In their settings (“Apps, Websites and Plugins”), it is recommended to “Disable Platform” altogether. This will stop your account from sharing information with third parties.

5. Restrict access to any sensitive material you post
If you wish to make sure that certain answers would not see the content you share, include them in the restricted-access list. Then, they will only see your public posts. Facebook does not inform your friends if they are added to the restricted-access list.

6. Do not add strangers as Facebook friends
Strangers who can see the private information you upload online can use it for criminal activities or share it with people who would.

7. Use privacy plug-ins
to ensure privacy, use such browser plug-ins as “Privacy Badger” or “Ghosotery.” Further, use such privacy-protecting browsers as “Firefox Foxus.”

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