The perils of posting kids pics on Facebook, the long term privacy and reputational consequences

March 31, 2014 |

In 2009 the newly minted President of the United States, President Obama, spoke to some school children and cautioned them about what they put on Facebook.  It is reported by the Huffington Post in Obama On Facebook: “Be Careful What You Post”.

At that time  he said:

“Whatever you do,” he told them, “it will be pulled up later in your life.”

Prescient comments then and  equally applicable today, if not more so with Big Data and sophisticated algorithims. Advice that is not heeded by those who take selfies after sex, as reported in Why are couples taking #aftersex selfies? A spectacularly stupid practice at any age.

In the Age’s article Online: Parents urged to be careful with child-related information the issue covered relates to oversharing with a focus on what information parents are putting on their Facebook pages, about their children.  The focus is on safety of children but the long term issues are as relevant.  And President Obama’s advice to kids about what they put on their social media sites applies as well to parents, those who should know better.  Family photos are just the start of what is posted social media, especially of children.  Embarrassing or just plain idiotic photos together with dopey accompanying commentary are forever, whether put there by adolescents or their parents.

It provides:

Proud parents could be unwittingly putting their children at risk by posting images and information online that give away details such as where they go to school and which parks they frequent.

National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell urged parents to be cautious when posting cute baby photos or sharing their children’s latest achievements.

”It can put them at risk,” she said. ”People can potentially find out what school they go to, or track where they move … because you have locational settings on.

”We have to be careful when we put images out there in the ether because we really don’t know what is happening to them, we don’t know who is going to access them and we don’t know what they’re going to do with them.”

She cited an example of an Australian man who posted a picture of his naked toddler in the bath on Facebook, thinking that it would only be seen by friends and family, only to discover that 3000 strangers had clicked on and ”liked” the image.

NSW Privacy Commissioner Dr Elizabeth Coombs also warned parents against oversharing: ”The capability of technology requires us to be far more conscious of what information we make available and the possible consequences to others, including children.”

A US study found two-thirds of parents posted pictures of their children online. But a UNSW research project into children’s wellbeing has questioned whether information parents post about their children violates their privacy and could potentially become a ”dirt file” in decades to come.

Sydney mother Eugenie Pepper posts images of her children, Tommy, 6, and Chloe, 4, on YouTube, her personal Facebook page as well as the page of her children’s wear business.

”My kids would be more offended if I didn’t post photos of them,” she said. ”I feel as if I am compiling these great memories and documenting their lives. They truly love it. I don’t know how they will feel about it when they’re older, but my gut is telling me that they’re not going to care about it.”

Ms Pepper’s comments are completely inane, a little self delusional and generally irresponsible.  Kids would be offended if she didn’t post on her Facebook page! That is hardly logical and more to the point, something like the tail wagging the dog.  Perhaps a better explanation is that Ms Pepper may feel that she loses bragging rights.  Or perhaps she just hasn’t thought things through.


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