Should You Post Photos of Your Children Online?

online_privacy_redbutton1It’s a classic first day of school tradition: the proud mother seeing her children onto the school bus and taking photos to mark the occasion. Since it’s 2014, many of those precious pictures now end up on Facebook and other social media sites. But, as The Washington Post asked this week, is that a good thing?

A debate has gathered steam over the past year among writers, experts and parents about whether it’s acceptable to post pictures of children online. In a Slate column from September, writer Amy Webb argued that she won’t post a single shred of information about her daughter online to protect her from Facebook profiling, data mining and facial recognition software. As pointed out in the WaPo column this week, there are certainly risks to posting your children’s photos online that extend beyond the obvious privacy factor.

Though experts say it rarely occurs, one obvious risk of posting photos of children on Facebook is that they could be taken, downloaded or used by sexual predators. A more common crime, and one that can have long-lasting financial consequences, is children’s identity theft. Pictures of children can be used to set up fake pages, or their name could be used to set up fake credit cards or other financial accounts. What’s worse, many parents don’t think to look into their children’s credit to make sure nothing untoward is happening.

Another risk, but one that’s far harder to define, is the chance that you could be creating a long-lasting digital identity for your child without their input. The more people’s identities and careers become tied up in the Internet, the more important it is to control every facet of what’s out there about yourself or your loved ones.

The best way to protect your child from these risks is simple: be judicious about what you post about them, and make sure that your own security settings are strong. If you’re careful and attentive with how you use Facebook, you can be free to share the occasional photo without concern.