The year 2004 was a milestone one. Facebook was born and the journey to connect people around the world began. It wasn’t until few years later when it was declared the number one social media platform and shortly after that, Instagram was launched. It has changed the way we perceive world, share information and think about what’s private and what not.
People use social media almost religiously and what was initially created to connect people with their friends, relatives and even strangers now seems to have the opposite effect. We are more disconnected than ever. But we’re not here to talk about that.
As much as we love sharing bits of our private lives, there are certain risks when you post pictures of your kids publicly. Yes, Instagram – we are talking about you. Why kids? They are more vulnerable and unlike you, they have no control about where and when you post their pictures.
Studies have shown that “digital kidnapping” have been rampant the past few years and we are none the wiser. While sharing few innocent snaps once in a while might do no harm, you should take caution if you post pictures of your kids regularly, documenting their every move.
The aim of this article is not to scare you. Just being aware of the risks and certain things to avoid will help you find the right balance between documenting your kid’s life online and keeping them safe same time.
1Learn More About Digital Kidnapping
What is digital kidnapping and how scary is this? Digital kidnapping is the online term for people claiming photos of children posted online as their own. For example, a person grabs one of your photo posts and re-posts it to make other people believe that the child in your photo is their child.
Of course, this will garner attention like congratulatory messages, parenting questions or just a complementary reaction.
It happens not just with children but also adults and more often than you think.
Why is this dangerous?
The more this happens, the more chances of social fiends psychologically believing the reality they have made for themselves. It may turn into an actual crime by wanting to make their make believe life become their reality. Your child can be kidnapped for real – whether it is for this reason or not.
Some experts say that digital kidnapping is a psychological warfare. It takes a lot of time and in depth research to really identify what causes these people to kidnap children digitally. To be on the safe side, know your boundaries.
2Choose Your Privacy Settings
The first time you register for Facebook, Instagram or other social networks, you are asked about the level of privacy you’d want your account to be in. This disallows people who you are not directly connected with to see all your photos, posts and activity.
Why is this important? A public profile is an easy access pick for online predators. They can simply stalk your activity to figure out your location, your routines, places you frequent and people you spend a lot of time with. You are compromising your safety and the safety of everyone you’re connected with.
It would be wise to keep personal posts only visible to your close friends. Think of it this way, a public post has 0 security, a post visible to friends of friends is almost like a public post, a post visible only to your friends has better security and a post visible only to your close or chosen friends is so much better with minimal risks.
3Turn Off Your Location Settings
First and foremost, is there a need for people to know where you are at the exact moment? Second, do you think it’s safe to do so? And lastly, who benefits from knowing your approximate location?
The answers are not unknown to you. Though GPS on social media websites doesn’t show your exact location unless you check in yourself, it still does not take much to figure out your general area.
More frequency of location-tagged posts will make it easier for online predators to pinpoint your address. Your photos will have landmarks. Also, depending on how often you take and post photos of your general surrounding area, stalkers can and will put the puzzle pieces together.
I implore you, please, turn off your location settings for the sake of your and your family’s protection.
4Frequency of Your Posts
How often do you post photos of your child? An average of one photo a day? More? You think the online world cannot get enough photos of your child?
Do you have social media addiction? Some people would just simply label that as attention hogging/seeking or vanity. Some people think it’s unhealthy. If you do post too many photos on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter, ask yourself why.
People don’t really care what your child is up to every single hour. Sure, you can post milestones and really surprising events, but limit your frequency. As stated earlier, it doesn’t take that many photos for your stalkers to piece your location together.
5Appropriate VS. Inappropriate
You may not be completely aware but child pornography is rampant in many countries in the world. You may be surprised to find out that it’s a common crime in your country. And, do you know what’s the most basic source? Social media posts.
Child pornographers take selected photos of kids, edits them and sells them online. You don’t want your child to be a victim of child pornography. So, before you post any photos of your kids, think if it’s appropriate or inappropriate.
For example, do not post a photo of your naked child in the bath. It may be completely innocent to you and your friends, but it could be worth hundreds of dollars for a child porn website owner. Rather than posting it publicly on your social media accounts, send it as a private message instead if you really want to share it.
6Know the Statistics
It pays to know what you might actually get into. An extra learning is always a good thing and can serve to be the make or break when it comes to making a decision.
If you think that there’s no harm in posting your child’s photos online, take a look at some of these statistics from Guard Child.
- The number of sexual assault cases related to social media sites has increased by 300%.
- 29% of Internet sex crime relationships were initiated on a social networking site.
- In 26% of online sex crimes against minors, offenders disseminated information and/or pictures of the victim through the victim’s personal social networking site.
- 33% of all Internet-initiated sex crimes involved social networking sites.
- Half of all sex crimes against a minor involving a social networking site, the social networking site was used to initiate the relationship.
- Cases of Internet sex crimes against children involving social networking sites were more likely to result in a face-to-face meeting. This was true of 81% of Internet-initiated crimes involving a social networking site.
- 29% have been stalked or contacted by a stranger or someone they don’t know.
These statistics are across all ages. Would you risk your child being a part of those steadily growing disturbing numbers?
7What Can Happen to Your Child
There are several things that can happen to you and your child if you thoughtlessly upload their photos for the world to see.
You can get stalked, harassed, black-mailed or threatened. Your child, on the other hand, can get kidnapped, sold to the child pornography industry, be kept captive, sold to human traffickers or be held for ransom.
Those are of course the worst case scenarios.
I am not telling you to stop posting photos of your kids, all you need to do is be more wary, careful and vigilant. Make the best use of your privacy settings to protect you and your family. Turn off your location settings as well as putting your post frequency at a moderation. Do not respond to people you do not know.
As long as you do these, you and your social network friend will be able to enjoy the cutest photos of your beautiful kids!
Any other social media considerations you’d like to share? Let us know with a comment below!
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