#ChildProtectionWeek: Social media safety tips parents need to know

“Oversharenting”, a term used to describe the overuse of social media by parents has a dark side, warned Emma Sadleir, an expert on Social Media Law.

For today’s kids, their social media debuts come long before they’ve learnt how to walk or talk. Friends and family can engage with online posts sharing the growth of babies prior to birth in the form of grainy ultrasound pictures, gender reveal videos and snaps of swollen pregnant bellies.

Once the bundle of joy arrives, a constant stream of baby updates follows suit. It seems like the natural thing to do in today’s online culture, but how aware are parents of the dangers posed by creating a digital footprint for children?

There is a dark side to oversharenting that eclipses the “likes” and sweet comments on cute baby posts. Emma Sadleir, expert on social media law and founder of the Digital Law Company, said, “Pictures can be misused, either repurposed as pornography by being digitally manipulated using graphics editors to add children’s faces on to naked bodies, or attached to inappropriate written content.”

From paedophiles to online identity thieves and phishers (a person who poses as a trustworthy entity to fraudulently obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, often for malicious reasons), “social media is present wrapped up in a shiny red bow for the baddies,” said Sadleir

Safety tips:

  • Enable the privacy settings available on social media accounts.

If you intend on posting pictures of children, make use of strict privacy settings: “The more you look after your privacy the more rights to your privacy you have. For instance, Kim Kardashian, who constantly shares pictures of her children on social media has less rights to those pictures than Jo-Ann Strauss who makes a concerted effort to not share her children’s faces online,” said Sadleir.

  • Be cautious of who you accept as an online friend or follower.

Don’t allow people you don’t know to join your network, even if you have mutual friends, they may have ill intentions.

  • Beware of sharing your geolocation.

This feature records and shares live locations when you post content online – don’t make the mistake of accidentally sharing information with the wrong people.

  • Don’t share identifying pictures.

School, uniforms, neighbourhood/house pictures – anything that may give away personal information that could be used to locate your child’s school or home address should not be shared online.

  • Don’t share embarrassing pictures of your children.

Though they may appear adorable to you and your friends, down the line, when your child is older, they may not appreciate the exposure. “Don’t give your kids a digital footprint that they did not ask for. When used safely, social media websites are a wonderful way to document events in your child’s life, however it is not the place for embarrassing photos that could one day affect their chances of getting a job,” said Sadleir.

  • Explain how the web works.

As your children get older, teach them to appreciate how dangerous digital content is and the impact it can have.

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