It’s a scary world that we live in. Posting to social media is a choice that some people make. Even if they are comfortable with the privacy settings they have configured for their account, there is little stopping someone from resharing the post to a much wider audience.
When the content of that post is of something inconsequential, it has little impact. As an individual, you can choose what you post about yourself with concerns that it might reach a wider audience. If somebody else posts something embarrassing about you or just more than you would rather share, it seems unfair. That same consideration does not seem to be granted to children.
Things that hit the Internet have a way of sticking around. It is not unreasonable to say that a Facebook post or viral video on YouTube could last until the focus of the post becomes a victim of bullying in grade school. It might take that long for the child to be aware of their unwanted fame but parents might find out much sooner. Kaspersky had an excellent article on tips for parents following viral videos. Close comments to prevent ill-intentioned trolls, set privacy settings to your intended audience only, and think of the consequences.
The problem is not limited to videos. German police issued an appeal to parents to stop posting photos of their children. Facebook may implement facial recognition to warn people when they are posting photos of minors publicly.
Many people were upset when VTech was compromised, releasing the names, email addresses, passwords, and home addresses of almost 5 million parents and over 200,000 children’s first names, genders, and birthdays. All of this information helps attackers pull off scams. With believable information, more people are likely to be victims. While people were upset that VTech’s Kid Connect service was compromised, many post that same information publicly to social media.
All of this oversharing has gone too far. Privacy settings are complicated but necessary to understand if you are going to use social media. Oversharing might allow someone to create a complete profile on a victim. If we thought the popular security question asking your mother’s maiden name was a weakness for our generation, the next generation is going to be completely known and transparent. Review privacy settings and avoid sharing more information than is necessary. A photo post wishing happy birthday could reveal name, birthday, and appearance.
That is why I say that a child’s privacy should be treated like their credit. Most minors do not have a credit history. Experian states that if a child has a credit report, one of three things happened:
You have applied for credit in their names and the applications were approved. You have added them as authorized users or joint account holders on one or more of your accounts. Or, someone has fraudulently used their information to apply for credit and they are already identity theft victims.
Unlike the free annual credit report, there is no free privacy report. If everything goes as planned, a person has their own credit to make or ruin. Likewise, it should be up to them whether they shed or hold onto their privacy. They won’t have anything to blame you for and can decide for themselves what level of exposure they would want. This also might mean standing up to grandparents and aunts/uncles about sharing so much information but it’s your job to protect your kids, right?