When I speak about social media, I often spend at least a bit of time on privacy settings. And though I am normally talking to lawyers, I almost always remind them to watch what their kids are doing online too. I normally say something in a joking manner about how the kids can seriously hurt their futures if they aren’t careful. But you know what? I’m really not joking.
Worried About Children Online
My concerns have always gone further than children posting stupid things, I very much worry about them being taken advantage of by online predators. The vast amount of child pornography that is apparently available online is, frankly, frighting. The individuals willing to take advantage of the naivete of children (and their parents) is even scarier. A quick search in the news portion of Google shows a proliferation of arrests involving online child pornography cases.
I am lead to discuss this today because of a recent article on the subject by Mashable. Apparently, child pornographers are taking pictures that children put on their social media accounts and using them on pornography sites. The idea that these poor excuses for human beings are getting some kind of sexual thrill from innocent pictures of children is upsetting. Not as upsetting as those who actually take pictures of children in abusive situations, but still, very unnerving. How would you feel if you discovered an innocent picture of your child on one of these sites? Or if your child found his or her own image shared around the web?
Parents – Be Careful What You Post
My advice on this subject is twofold. First, be careful what you post in terms of pictures of your children. Make certain that you control your privacy settings so that only people you trust can see such images. On Facebook, for example, you can choose to share photographs with only certain people, people that you trust not to share the pictures outside a small group.
Watch What Your Children Post
Second, please talk to your children, make certain they understand what is and is not acceptable to post. Review your children’s privacy settings as well. And as much as I believe children deserve privacy, make sure you have access to your children’s social media accounts. Don’t trust them to just friend you. Savvy children know that they can hide certain posts from their parents, if they are so inclined. For young children especially, insist on the password and look at the accounts. Older children might be able to be trusted. You can make that assessment over time. Younger children have no clue. It is not that I feel you should prevent your children from having accounts (at least once they are over 13 and terms of service allow it) but I do strongly believe they need to be protected from sharing more than they should. So does the FBI, which has provided an excellent guide to Internet safety.
Keep Your Children Safe Online
Please keep your children safe online. Both from predators who would desire to physically harm them, and those more common types who are more than willing to emotionally harm them.