Social networks: beware of children’s digital footprint

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What is the digital footprint?

A majority of toddlers aged 2 and under are already present on social networks because their parents post comments, photos and videos of them. Indeed, many parents share milestones in their children’s lives.

Parents create a digital footprint for their children from a very young age. The digital footprint is all the information shared online about your child (e.g. name, date of birth, photos). This personal information can be seen and used by many people and sometimes even by people with bad intentions. So there are risks involved.

How can you protect your child on social networks?

A good place to start is to adjust the privacy settings on your social networks. For example, make sure your accounts are private and that your posts are not public.

Also, limit posts about your toddler and ask yourself before you post something. For example: does this photo identify your child? Could it make him/her feel uncomfortable or harmed later?

Avoid posts that show him in certain situations

Whenever possible, do not post pictures of your child in an embarrassing situation (e.g., in the middle of a crisis). Also, don’t post pictures of your child naked or partially naked (e.g., in the bath, on the potty).

Indeed, these publications expose him particularly to certain risks:

Invasion of his privacy. You decide in your child’s place to make public details of his or her life or personality. You are creating a virtual identity for your child that he or she may not be comfortable with later on.

Bullying. Bullies may use these photos or videos later to make fun of your child.

Child pornography. Photos and videos of your child could be used for pornography, even if there is no nudity. Some sites use photos of children in ordinary situations and add comments to make them look sexual.

Avoid posting important information about your child

Examples of important information are: your child’s name, date of birth, address, pet’s name, what shows he watches, health problems he has had… If you want to talk about an event, post a picture of your child’s birthday instead, for example, but only a few days later, adding a general comment, such as “It was son’s birthday this week!”

These posts particularly expose it to the following risks:

Use by companies. Companies may use this information to profile your child and later use it to send advertisements or to deny your child life insurance or a job.

Fraud and identity theft. Fraudsters can obtain information that is used to confirm your child’s identity (date of birth, mother’s last name) or to answer security questions, such as the name of your child’s first pet or elementary school. This way, later on, applications for loans or credit cards can be made in his or her name.

Finally, if you decide to delete some of your posts to protect your child, be aware that some people may have saved or re-shared them. Your posts could therefore continue to exist elsewhere.

Private groups

It is safer to post your child’s information in a private group, provided you take certain precautions to restrict access to the group. Also, make sure that the group is “secret”, meaning that only members who have access to it can find it.

Things to remember

When you post photos and videos of your child, you are sharing a lot of personal information without realizing it.

These posts could later damage your child’s reputation and be used for advertising, fraud or child pornography.

Limit posts about your child and tighten the privacy settings on your social networks.

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