I’ve heard parents say that the reason they are so protective of their baby’s digital footprint is that the Internet is forever and they don’t want to jeopardise their children’s career in the future.
There are many reasons to be protective of your young child’s digital footprint but I can’t take this one seriously.
I’m yet to hear of an adult passed over for a job or promotion because of a video of them as a tantrumming toddler or because their parents posted a photo of them in the bath when they were two.
However, there are other much more important reasons why parents do need to be mindful of the digital footprint they are creating for their children.
The 2 main factors I believe they need to consider are safety and privacy:
Are you putting your children at risk with the information you are sharing? I cannot stress enough the importance of understanding your settings.
I’ve been talking a lot recently about Instagram location settings. I really do love Instagram and use it daily to keep up with my favourite brands, celebrities and people. But please know, that if you leave your location settings on when you share a photo, strangers will be able to see where you added that photo.
This means that when someone taps the location symbol they’ll be able to see where the majority of your photos were added and in many cases this is where your family lives.
I see so many high profile people and bloggers with kids giving this information away every day and wish I could find a way to tell them without looking like a stalker!
On Facebook understand what’s showing on your profile. If you want, this can just be your profile picture and name. To see what someone you aren’t Facebook friends with can see, go to the lock symbol in the top right hand corner of your page, then ‘Who can see my stuff?’ and then view your page as a member of the public.
Then understand what happens when someone tags you in a picture. That photo will appear in search, news feed and other places on Facebook whilst that tag remains in place.
If someone has ever shared a photo of your child and tagged you in it, you literally have no idea who is seeing that photo that could contain personal information about where you live or where your kids go to school.
Before social media exploded into our lives, breaches of privacy were largely reserved for celebrities and high profile figures being stalked by the paparazzi with long-range lenses.
Now every one of us faces the daily threat of an invasion of our privacy through over-sharing and most of that is from the people closest to us who mean well.
Last week I was interviewed by the BBC about a case in the UK where a distraught mother appealed for friends for her young son who was struggling socially at school. The mother was thrilled that so many people responded positively to her pleas but the question that was asked was whether she was risking him being stigmatised in the future.
Hopefully this won’t be the case but I can’t help but wonder if an influx of messages on social media from strangers really helps with the very real problems this boy is facing at school with his peers.
One of the ideals of privacy is that individuals have the right to define themselves and choose how much of their lives to reveal. One of the harsh realities of the Internet is that often people are judged out of context. Privacy protects us from this.
Adults are free to share whatever they want about themselves and run the gauntlet of misjudgement. Many do so because the upside of sharing and being part of a community outweighs the negative, but most days I am open-mouthed about how much people are willing to share publically on behalf of their children.
In the snippets that appear in interviews, blogs and on social media many parents are giving running commentaries on their children’s personalities and antics to people who do not love them with little thought of the motivation.
When you share information about your child are you respecting their right to define themselves and protecting them from misjudgement?
To protect your child’s digital footprint parents need to agree what types of information they feel are appropriate to share about their children online, secure their privacy settings and then communicate their preferences to family and friends.
Do you share a lot about your kids online? How do you manage their digital footprint?