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Sharing safely: How parents can share important milestones without risking family safety

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Last month we talked about the possible dangers of parental oversharing on social media platforms, and how parents can control themselves. Here’s more on the important topic.

Tips to stay safe

Michael Osakwe is a NextAdvisor.com writer covering technology. He offers helpful tips on how to stay safe on social media, as well as valuable information about the dangers that lurk there, so parents can share responsibly and avoid potential problems that could put their families at risk.

Tammy Scileppi: Many parents out there are probably still wondering, if Facebook is all about sharing, and everybody’s doing it, how can too much of it turn into a bad thing? What’s your view?

Michael Osakwe: Parents who overshare or partake in what’s called “sharenting” run the risk of either embarrassing their child, or compromising their child’s or family’s privacy. Aside from these concerns, the information that parents are sharing about their children, who are too young to consent or know what’s posted about them online, is potentially disrespectful and harmful to their children’s self-esteem. For example, a story about your child’s failed attempts to potty train may be funny to you, but it could scar your child’s reputation when they’re older. Finally, considering that the internet never forgets, it’s possible that one day, “sharented” materials could be seen by future dates and employers Googling a child’s name.

TS: What should parents keep in mind, so they can avoid cyber predators, identity theft, and more?

MO: If parents choose to share information about their child, they should make sure to turn off geolocation on all of their social media accounts, use the highest privacy settings online, and ensure that any posts containing images of their children include as little identifying information as possible.

For good measure, they should remove the Exif metadata from their photos if they haven’t turned off geotagging on their phones. Exif data includes information like the device the photo was taken with, as well as the exact coordinates where a picture was taken. When photos are uploaded to most major social media sites, Exif data is removed, but in the instance a photo is simply shared through traditional file-sharing means, like e-mail or Dropbox, the photo will retain its metadata. In a worst-case scenario, a photo retaining Exif data can be copied and shared numerous times by friends and family, or uploaded to sites that don’t wipe this information.

TS: According to an informative NextAdvisor blog: Everything from social media apps to the photos you take and store in your phone uses geolocation data, and most people tend to breeze straight through screens informing them when an app is requesting permission to use their location. The best thing you can do is slow down when installing new apps and pay attention to the permissions screen that pops up informing you what data or features the app will be accessing.

TS: What’s behind many parents’ need to overshare?

MO: The motivations behind parental oversharing are likely the same as any other type of social media sharing — pride, desire of approval, or to bond over shared experiences. Sharing is healthy in controlled amounts, but parents need to be careful. Overuse of social media isn’t just harmful for privacy reasons; it can be psychologically unhealthy for both parents and children.

TS: How do bad people use photos to do their dirty work?

MO: The act of posting a photo online from a personalized social media account provides all the information a would-be predator needs to commit identity theft, stalk children, or engage in other scams. For example, if your account is hacked (or that of a friend’s), it doesn’t matter if the photos don’t have any information about the child, because simply having access to one of these accounts puts the photos in context for a predator or hacker.

But even without infiltrating people’s accounts, a predator’s job is made easy by the fact that many social media accounts tend to have poorly configured privacy settings. In a recent example, US Military personnel unwittingly revealed the locations of secret bases through a popular fitness app. To be fair, though, in this case and many others, companies tend to make security settings very obfuscating, and most of the default settings these services offer tend to be a privacy nightmare. Furthermore, as these services grow and update, many users assume their settings remain the same, which isn’t always the case.

With regards to social media, those most versed in understanding its effects, especially on children, tend to be psychologists and cyber security experts who disseminate information from their research through media appearances and discussions.

Most recently, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which consists of a coalition of privacy advocates, psychologists, doctors and parents, wrote a letter to Facebook to ask the company to discontinue its Messenger Kids app. The controversial app would allow children as young as 6 to have a limited presence on social media. We conducted our own investigation into the app, which you can view at www.nextadvisor.com/blog/2017/12/12/facebook-introduces-messenger-kids-is-it-safe-for-your-child.

TS: Why is social media’s hold so powerful?

MO: The short answer is because it’s a product that was designed to be addictive. Some former Facebook executives have been recently quoted in the media talking about the deliberate design choices and implementations that promote user retention but might be bad for society as a whole.

TS: What does the future hold?

MO: It’s difficult to tell, but with growing awareness of social media’s psychological effects and the need for personalized cyber security practices, it’s possible that companies might start creating less harmful platforms that engage users organically while promoting safety and security. Even if this doesn’t happen, I’m optimistic that knowledge about the effects of these platforms will spread among consumers who can make informed decisions about how they will choose to use (or disuse) them.

• • •

Whenever sharing, parents ought to remember the golden rule: Avoid sharing and posting anything about your children that you wouldn’t want shared about yourself. And be careful about who you give personal information to. It’s just common sense.

And here’s a friendly reminder for everyone: Every post — whether it’s on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or Instagram — is forever preserved in cyberspace.

You can look at this way: In fashion, less is more. On social media, less is best.

Tammy Scileppi is a Queens-based freelance writer and journalist, parent, and regular contributor to New York Parenting.

Internet tips for teens

• Be smart about what you post on the web and what you say to others. The web is a lot more public and permanent than it seems.

• Provocative and sexy names and pictures can draw attention from people you don’t want in your life.

• Be careful what you download or look at, even for a laugh. Some of the images on the internet are extreme, and you can’t “unsee” something.

• Going to sex chat rooms and other sex sites may connect you with people who can harass you in ways you don’t anticipate.

• Free downloads and file-sharing can put pornography on your computer that you may not want and can be hard to get rid of. Any pornography that shows children or teens under 18 is illegal child pornography and can get you in big trouble.

• Adults who talk to you about sex online are committing a crime. So are adults who meet underage teens for sex. Some teens think it might be fun, harmless, or romantic, but it means serious trouble for everyone. It’s best to report it.

• Don’t play along with people on the web who are acting badly, taking risks, and being weird. Even if you think it’s harmless and feel like you can handle it, it only encourages them and may endanger other young people.

• Report it when other people are acting weird and inappropriately or harassing you or others. It’s less trouble just to log off, but these people may be dangerous. Save the communication. Contact the site management, your service provider, the CyberTipline, or even the police.

• Don’t let friends influence your better judgment. If you are surfing with other kids, don’t let them pressure you to do things you ordinarily wouldn’t.

• Be careful if you ever go to meet someone you have gotten to know through the internet. You may think you know them well, but they may fool you. Go with a friend. Tell your parents. Meet in a public place. Make sure you have your cellphone and an exit plan.

• Don’t harass others. People may retaliate in ways you don’t expect.

• You can overestimate your ability to handle things. It may feel like you are careful, savvy, aware of dangers, and able to manage the risks you take, but there are always unknowns. Don’t risk disasters.

Source: Crimes Against Children Research Center

Posted 12:00 am, April 7, 2018
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