I’m worried about how they might be used.
I live and breath social media. My job revolves around social media. I know what my friends and family are doing with their lives because of social media. I’m an addict.
I am also pregnant. In about 22 weeks, I’m going to have a baby. If the photos of my dogs on my Instagram are anything to go by, that baby will be seen by the world before they are seen by many of my friends and family.
This is actually very normal, but is it safe? That’s the question that keeps playing over and over in my mind when I can’t sleep thanks to Bump.
Recently in the US, Brittany Champagne found private and personal photos of her 8-year-old daughter on a fake Instagram account with links to online pornography. Turns out, those photos originally posted on her private Facebook account were everywhere.
"We’ve had the photos pulled down from over 20 sites, but they’re on even more where I couldn’t find a way to get them down,” she tells Yahoo.
The even scarier part is Champagne thought all her privacy settings were set to maximum. "I found out after this happened that my pictures weren’t as private as I thought they were, I guess my settings weren’t right. It’s humiliating," she confesses.
Sure, you can blame Champagne for not keeping up with the regular privacy changes. But the reality is that anything put online has the potential to be shared.
How do you know what privacy setting your friend who likes and comments on your photo has?
How do you know your sibling isn't going to share your photo of your newborn on their public Facebook page with a caption, "Love my new niece"?
You also don't realise how much data is attached to that image, things like your location, for instance.
For example, this is my worst nightmare; I post a photo of my newborn while still in hospital. Somewhere in the image you can find out which hospital I'm in, a logo, something gives it away. And someone decides that my little one looks cute enough to have as their own.
Or how about I take a photo of their first swimming lesson. There they are dressed in a covers-everything-up swimmers. Innocent. Harmless. But is it potentially something that could be used by child pornographers?
Am I paranoid? Am I letting the pregnancy hormones get to me? Do I need to stop watching Law and Order: SVU?
According to most of the mums I know, yes.
When it comes to the scary world of online pedophiles, most of the mums I know rationalise it away. "There are so many photos of kids out there that you'd have to be pretty unlucky to have yours used for evil purposes. And even if it is - really, it's not going to hurt your child. Not physically," says Helen, mum of two.
While new mum Tegan argues, "Sadly, there's no shortage of graphic child pornography available, I don't think think my niece on her first day of school is what they are after. And realistically your child is at significantly more risk from the people already in their lives than them getting a stalker on social media from baby photos."
But the worry is still there. What if I am one of those unlucky ones?
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, our kids are still at risk. This video is going viral after a man conducted a social experiment about whether children lived by the Stranger Danger rules that have been drummed into them. (Post continues after the video.)
Sarah-Jane Kurtini, social media expert and co-founder of Tinybeans, a private social network for families, says, "Many parents are often lulled into a false sense of security thanks to the familiarity of social media and do not realise that the images or stories they post of their children may in fact be shared with a broader audience."
The University of Michigan recently found that 51% of parents post information on social media that could identify a child's location. Without even realising it.
I did find one mum (they do exist) who is anti photos of her kids on social media. She's chosen to remain anonymous, but the reason she doesn't post photos to sites like Facebook is her concern that Facebook has access to all her photos, regardless of her privacy settings. And that frightens her.
However, mums who do post photos of their kids, say the benefits far outweigh the worry.
Tegan says, "my main motivation is that most of my family and my closest friends don't live close by, and rarely get to see my son. It's a nice way to share his growing up with them. And it saves sending the same SMS a zillion times."
Many mums have self-imposed rules when it comes to posting their kids photos. Nothing nude. Nothing embarrassing. No proper names, so just L.
These are all good and fair points. I am sure these are points that Champagne lived by before seeing her kid's photos on pornography sites.
But the question in my mind at 3am still remains...
Should I celebrate my newborn and their childhood on social media, stop worrying about who else is out there and hope for the best?
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