Is it safe to post pictures of our kids online ?

Question: Is it safe to post pictures of our kids online?
Answer: With the proliferation of social media and photo-sharing websites, it has become our everyday routine to stay in touch with our friends and family by sharing pictures of our kids and our family. We all have got into that mode of thinking that if we don’t do that ritual we would be socially segmented and branded as old-school. As per experts it is worth knowing the facts before posting pictures or even allowing your friends and family to post your kids’ pictures or even tag them. Let us see the various aspects of this growing scary behaviour which might put the future generation in an unpleasant and troubling situation at a very young age.

Primarily, posting photos of your kids creates a digital footprint( think of it as a digital billboard with your kids’ entire life history which anybody can see , read or even download at a later date) of their identities in a futuristic world. Definitely our kids are going to grow up one day and they wouldn’t want to be in a situation where some of the their embarrassing moments captured in a digital way, when they were young and unaware of the consequences, would be found out by their friends, colleagues and extended new family members. Even though we would have done that in the present age without thinking too much, we would forcing our kids to face the reality of future. This should not be forced upon them just to get our social networking or sharing skills upgraded and lauded by our social circles.

Secondarily, the moment you post a photo online, you lose control over it. Someone could easily copy the photo, tag it, save it, or otherwise use it — and you might never know. There has been instances where photos of a vacation was taken in one country and was used by an advertising firm in a different country miles away from the original location without the original photo owner’s consent as there was no copyright protection.

Last but no least, whatever you post may be having some hidden information which might be valuable for market research organisations and advertising campaigns. For example, if you post a photo of your pre-school kid , it identifies you as someone who might be interested in baby products, reading books, toys and clothing.

At the very least, you can minimise the consequences with these precautions:

1) Use privacy settings; limit the audience of a post (only to family, or some small closed group whom you know very well and are close and wouldn’t do any harm)

2) Use tagging approval process provided by many social networking sites so that you would know who are tagging your photos and whether to approve or not. Never post a picture without consent. Follow the three step rule: Is this ok?, who would be seeing this picture and should I give them option only to see or to download as well.

3) Turn off your phone’s GPS. There are tools and apps available out there which can harvest information from photos posted online if the phone or camera GPS was enabled. In some instances, the demonstration sent some chills to unaware parents that their kids’ room or school location was pretty visible on the photos from a digital fingerprint perspective.

4) Consider using a nickname for your kids. Never use their real names

5) Think about using photo-sharing sites such as Instagram, Picasa or Flickr that require users to log in to see pictures (unlike on social media, where all your followers can see them).

6) While posting make sure it’s not a picture that’s something that you’ll regret, and also check with kid (if he/she is older) to make sure they’re not embarrassed.

7) Copyright or watermark the pictures so that other are not able to misuse them without your consent.

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