Tech Tuesday: Keeping Candid Kids Safe Online

Fun kid girl in hat screwing up her eyesKids are so darn cute. This cuteness can be completely out of control when a camera — be it video or still — comes into play. Whether it is in their infancy when you catch a magic moment, or a few years later when they ham it up for the photo, kids and cameras can sometimes be the best of buddies.

Mobile devices have made photographing your child easy. Frighteningly easy. Mobile devices have evolved from “great in a pinch” alternatives to print-worthy images and high-definition video cameras, and many of the popular social networking apps offer direct access to Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter. Privacy, according to US News & World Report, is non-existent online.  “In the post-Snowden era, there should be no illusions of privacy of the Internet,” Rainey Reitman of the Electric Frontier Foundation says. Privacy online has never really stopped being an issue, even with the recent events concerning Apple and the FBI, yet friends and relatives rely on the Internet to stay in touch and catch a glimpse of your kids hard at work or play.

The good news is that there is a comfort zone between never taking pictures of your child and sharing every photographed moment with the world on Facebook. With only a few tips kept in mind, you can keep loved ones and close friends in the know and still play safe:

  • Explore Privacy Settings for Your Online Networks. Some social network venues tend to be cavalier when it comes privacy, but there are other outlets that provide various methods of protection. Here is just a quick glance at some of those options:
    • WordPress (blogging software): Individual blogposts can be Password Protected or made Private, granting you full control over this individual post and what you want subscribers to receive.
    • Flickr (photo sharing): When accepting Contacts, you can designate them as Contacts, Friends, or Friends & Family. You can then make individual photos or entire albums Public, Private to Friends, or Private to Friends & Family.
    • Instagram (social networking): When deciding which platforms you want to post, you can switch your “Share to” targets from platforms (“Followers”) to specific individuals or groups within your IG network (“Direct”). Simply tap the “Direct” option and only those you select will see your Instagram post. The image does not show up in either your public feed on Instagram or even on the Iconosquare platform. The image is only accessible by the IG members you designate.
    • Facebook (social networking): Under the Photos section of your Profile, you will see near the top of the window a link for “Album Privacy.” From here, you can designate how public or private you want your images to be.

Staying safe in social networking takes only a few minutes. Understand how filters work and being smart in how you set them. If you insist on posting without a filters, you still have options:

  • Avoid using you child’s name online. People still reveal their children’s names in open, online conversations; and while this is more of a personal choice, keep in mind that your posts if open to the public include everyone online. That includes individuals not fit to be in the presence of minors. Code names allow you to talk about day-to-day and special events with little to no risk. Don’t panic on the occasional slip, but do ask that close friends adhere to these code names when online.
  • Disable Location Features in Smartphone Apps. Before posting on Instagram, before posting on Facebook, before posting on Twitter, stop for a moment and check the Location features. Many social networking apps will have running a location feature that lists with your post where you are updating from. If it is from a public place like an amusement park or a museum, it is not so bad. However, if it is your kid’s school or your home, you may want to keep that to yourself. You can always turn Location Services back on when you are posting about yourself, but make sure you want to share your whereabouts with everyone before updating.
  • Continue to take pictures of your child. Why is that part of our advice? Swiftness in locating missing or abducted children can come down to a recent photograph.  Technology has made snapping off photos commonplace, and having recent photos of your child on hand are always good, not only for sharing with friends but also in keeping your child’s identification current. Also, it’s always a good thing to share with friends and family. Never be afraid to take a picture of your child.

Kids play CameraPolicing pictures of our kids can be a truly daunting task, especially in a world with so many different cameras accessible. You should not feel obligated, even with the trend of social networking, to reveal every waking moment with your child, but you should be smart before posting. Find out what privacy filters exist, understand how they work and how much control you have over the information shared, and take a moment to ask how much of this particular moment you want share online. It’s okay to ham it up with your child, and it’s even better to let your kids be kids; so long as you are safe and smart about it.

Privacy matters. Even to those who don’t understand what it is.

 What do you think? What are you best methods in keeping your family safe online?