PAUSE BEFORE YOU POST!
We all want to share those photo-worthy moments of our children with our friends and family, but is it safe? Follow these social media rules for parents before you post, says Lori Cohen
✓ DO CHECK YOUR PRIVACY SETTINGS This is the most important social media lesson. Limit who can see what you post by adjusting your settings – the default setting allows strangers to view your pics and comments. To do so on Facebook click on the padlock icon on the top right hand side, then “Who can see my stuff?” Under “Who can see my future posts”, choose the one which suits you, such as friends, or custom (you can limit some of your friends from seeing your posts). You can also limit past posts retrospectively. A biggie – don’t use the location settings when you post a pic, or turn off your location settings altogether. Would you like a stranger to be able to track down where your child lives? Nope.
On Instagram you can also make your posts private to ensure that only followers you approve can see them. To do so, go to your profile. Tap “Push Notification Settings” and adjust your settings to “Private”.
“What South African law says about privacy is the more measures you take to protect your own privacy (or that of your child’s for that matter), the greater expectation of privacy you can have in a set of circumstances,” say lawyers Sarah Hoffman and Emma Sadleir of legal consultancy The Digital Law Company. That’s legal speak – but it means if you show you have tried to protect your privacy, and someone still infringes on it, you may have a stronger case.
✓ DO THINK ABOUT YOUR CHILD’S OWN PRIVACY RIGHTS TOO With private online info about Facebook users being shared with other companies, data mining is big news right now. Facebook tracks every like, share and comment you make to understand more about you. The objective is to build a digital profile on you – which benefits the companies advertising on Facebook. Yup, that’s why when you announce your pregnancy to your friends on Facebook you’ll “coincidentally” start seeing sponsored posts for baby paraphernalia appearing on your feed.
“Since the latest Facebook data breach, it’s important to take note of what we share of our children – we’re now living in a digital-friendly world. I always advocate in sharing your life with the world, but I also take note of the security of my family and especially newborns,” says Conrad David, managing director of Hashtag South Africa.
Thanks to face recognition technology, Facebook will also be building a profile associated with your child’s face. Fast-forward to adulthood and before your kid’s even matriculated there will be a precise record of his likes and dislikes – just ripe for the picking of corporate data miners.
✓ DO THINK BEFORE YOU POST As you post hundreds of snaps of your kids over the years you are slowly building a database of images of them. A database their future partners or employers will potentially have access to. Would your son or daughter really be happy with an HR manager in twenty years’ time being privy to the highs and lows of their formative years?
A simple strategy is to use a pseudonym or nickname for your child when posting pics of them so that in the future the posts won’t appear if someone does a search using their name. But another thing to consider is less technical. It’s got to do with your child’s emotions. Before you post a pic or comment, think about how your child would view it in later life. You may have felt the need to vent in the moment, but your rant about the fact that they haven’t pooped in a week isn’t going to go down well with your future teen.
✗ DON’T SIGN AWAY YOUR RIGHTS You may have snapped the winning shot, but once you’ve posted it you no longer own it. The terms and conditions of many social media sites state they have the right to use uploaded images to promote their services without asking your permission. You agreed to the terms and conditions when you signed on, so there’s no escaping this. “Your data on social media, irrespective if you’re private or public, can still be used for ad-based campaigns, from the hashtags you use to the images you share. It’s important to remember that these platforms are created with the return on investment goal of selling ads and your data,” explains Conrad David, the managing director of the social media agency Hashtag South Africa.
Social media policies and trends change constantly – so when you are asked by a platform to sign updated terms and conditions ensure you check you are happy with the changes before you hit “tick”. And keep an eye on the future, suggests Conrad. “Because the social media culture we’re currently living in is still so new, we don’t really have any idea if there are any long-term implications for our children and if so, what they will even be.”
✗ DON’T POST NUDIE SHOTS Your newborn having his first bath at home is a magical moment – and one you can’t resist sharing with your “friends” and “followers”. It’s innocent and heartwarming, but in extreme cases, this could even have legal repercussions. “The current definition of ‘child pornography’ in our law is very broad, to the extent that even seemingly innocent photos like these could technically be considered to be child pornography (although prosecution in situations like these is unlikely),” says Sarah.
You could also find yourself being cut out of your “social” circle. Facebook has a no-nudity policy, so if a fellow user reports your post you may have your account suspended. Instagram’s community guidelines also prohibit pics of “partially naked” children because of the risk of other users copying the images and using them for less than innocent purposes. “It has been suggested that 50 percent of images shared on paedophile sites have been taken from parents’ social media sites. We lose full control of where our kids’ photos end up when we share them online,” warns Conrad.
Sarah agrees. “There are a lot of creepy people out there and we need to think about who may have access to our content, and most importantly, that of our children.”
✗ DON’T POST PICS OF OTHER PEOPLE’S KIDS WITHOUT PERMISSION Many daycare facilities and schools are introducing opt in and opt out documents that allow you to decide whether or not you give permission to have your child’s photograph taken. You may be happy with a pic of your tot being used on their promotional website, but consider that it makes other parents uncomfortable, and you need to consider their views before you photograph their kids on playdates or get-togethers. “The same rules of a right to privacy apply to other people in this situation,” confirms Sarah, and it could technically have legal repercussions if they chose to take it up. Even if she’s your bestie, ask before you post pictures of your children playing together. It’s polite and the right thing to do.
A good rule of thumb? “Before you post something online consider if you would be unhappy with one of the following Ps seeing it: your parents, a policeman, a principal, a paedophile, a prospective employer or a phisher,” suggests Emma. “And when it comes to your child, err on the side of caution and leave out important identifying information such as where your child goes to school and your surname.” YB