Uploading snaps of our kids on social media is a common practice in our society. We frequently find parents sharing photos as well as personal data of their children on facebook without making any effort to learn that what may be the consequences of such sharenting on the lives of their loved ones. There is an ongoing debate as to how parents can balance their right to share with their child’s interest in privacy.
Pediatricians have now started to consider how sharenting affects childhood well-being and family life. It is commonly observed that in extreme forms, parental sharing of their children’s information has led to a phenomenon labeled “digital kidnapping”, whereby children’s photos and details have been appropriated by others who promote such kids as being their own children.
Research has shown that millions of innocent photographs end up on pedophilic and hebephilic websites. This piece is exclusively aimed at highlighting the hazards of reckless sharenting on our kids’ safety and security. “Sharenting” is a term that denotes the overuse of social media by parents to share content, based on their children, such as baby pictures or details of their children’s activities.
To cape it all, sharenting should be matter of great deliberation for parents for it may jeopardize the safety and security of their kids
The Wall Street Journal pertaining to the perils attached to sharenting quoted psychiatry professor Elias Aboujaoude, who said that sharenting can turn parenthood into a competition for attention. The practice has also been linked to online predators, who could use the information for child grooming.
Children’s self-esteem can also be affected by negative online reactions and they may have trouble forming their self-identity- separate from the online persona created by parents. Inter alia, there are myriad perils attached to sharenting which every parent must be cautious of before sharing the images and personal information of their loved ones on the internet. Some of these are highlighted hereunder.
Bullying: sharing your child photos on social media can be used for bullying your children. You must be concerned about how others would react to the stuff that you share about your kids. Whether your child cares about old photos and stories about them on social media, others may be able to use that information to make fun of, insult, and even bully your child as he or she grows older.
What’s to stop a peer from sharing a photo that your child finds embarrassing with his or her own networks? What if that share catches on? It doesn’t take much for a photo to go from an inside family joke to gossip fodder for an entire school. Moreover, while posting embarrassing photos of your children on Facebook might seem like harmless fun, it can expose them to bullying and intimidation.
If someone distributes these photos to online forums and websites as a joke it can cause a lot of emotional trauma for your child. In some severe cases, teens have committed suicide after threats and bullying online.
Digital kidnapping: Digital kidnapping is a type of identity theft. It occurs when someone takes photos of a child from social media and repurposes them with new names and identities, often claiming the child as their own. There have been numerous examples of this in recent years, including a 2015 incident in which a stranger took a photo of an 18-month old baby from a mommy blogger’s Facebook page and posted it on her own Facebook profile, acting like he was her son.
Your child’s photos can also be kidnapped for baby role-playing. If you’re unfamiliar with baby role-playing, search for #BabyRP, #AdoptionRP, and #KidRP on social media sites. Baby role players create accounts on social media sites to post stolen photos along with captions that give false details about the child in the photos.
While posting embarrassing photos of your children on Facebook might seem like harmless fun, it can expose them to bullying and intimidation
Sometimes the stranger impersonates the child by responding to comments as the child or from the child’s point-of-view. These comments can be disturbing, though not all are malicious. Baby role-playing accounts appear to be created by people who appear to want to be a parent or a child. They are, however, another example of how you can easily lose control over your child’s identity when you publish information about them online.
Sets a bad example: Young children should be taught from an early age about the dangers of revealing too much information to strangers. With smartphones and other electronic devices making it easy to post photos online, it is important that children understand the dangers of uploading the wrong kind of pictures.
If you upload lots of photos of your children to Facebook, they may draw the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with sharing images online. For example, many parents post photos of their children in the bath or in their swimwear. Unless children are taught boundaries about sharing personal photos such as these, it can have a negative effect on them later in life.
Real Life Stalking: Sexual predators can use social media sites to physically stalk their intended victims. When users post information about themselves and their activities, stalkers can take that information to learn about their targets’ interests and schedules. Predators can then use this information to locate and stalk their victims in the real world, not just online.
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According to an article in the Journal of Adolescent Health quoted by enough is enough, 65 percent of online sex offenders used social media sites to collect home and school information about their victims. Social posts that specify a user’s precise location make it particularly easy for online predators to locate and stalk victims.
Sextortion: Sexual predators don’t have to find users in real life to victimize them. If a predator hacks into a victim’s account and finds intimate or compromising pictures or other sensitive information, he can use that material to blackmail the user. For example, in 2010, the FBI arrested a man on charges of hacking and blackmailing over 200 victims.
After stealing private pictures to use as blackmail material, he coerced his victims into providing him with inappropriate pictures and videos of themselves. This practice of stealing material to blackmail victims into providing the predator with such material is known as sextortion.
Impact on child’s future: – It’s difficult, if not impossible, to control information once it’s posted online. You can’t prevent anyone from taking a screenshot of your post and disseminating it beyond your reach. Your deleted posts, while apparently gone from your social media profile, may still live on in Internet archive websites and on the social media servers themselves.
With that in mind, you should consider how your photos and stories may impact your child when he’s much older, even an adult. The reality is that the data shared by parents could be revealed by Google search algorithms for years to come. And we don’t know what our children’s goals might be when they get older.
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To cape it all, sharenting should be a matter of great deliberation for parents for it may jeopardize the safety and security of their kids. They must ask their children what they’re comfortable with and take some precautions. They also must pay close attention to privacy settings on their social media pages. They should choose photos carefully and watermark the ones that they post publicly.
They should also ask friends and family to refrain from posting photos or videos of their children. They should also start involving their children in deciding what is appropriate to share with others. Such a conversation can help ward off bad feelings in the future and are useful for preparing children for living in a digital age.
Abdul Rasool Syed Legal Practitioner & columnist based in Quetta.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.