Prioritise child’s privacy before sharing pictures on social media, privacy experts advise parents

An online privacy expert with a technology and privacy network, EarthWeb, Trevor Cooke, has called on parents who share their children’s information and photos on social media to prioritise their children’s interests.

In a statement sent to PUNCH Healthwise, Cooke highlighted the risks associated with “sharenting,” a term used to describe parents who share details and images of their children online.

He cautioned against the potential exploitation of children’s identities by cybercriminals, who could misuse their photos, names, and ages for fraudulent activities such as identity theft and financial scams.

The privacy expert advised, “It’s important to understand the concerns regarding ‘sharenting’, a new term for parents sharing information and pictures of their child on social media. If you decide to do it, always put your child’s interests at the forefront.”

He frowned against sharing photos of significant events like a child’s first day of school or birthday, as these details could provide valuable information to cybercriminals.

Speaking on the risks of posting children’s photos online, Cook stated, ‘Social media posts of kids may include their photo, name, and date of birth/birthday. This can enable cybercriminals to commit identity fraud and perform financial scams (e.g. gaining false credit using your child’s name).’

“Social media platforms can also share your kid’s data with other companies for targeted marketing purposes. In the worst-case scenario, your child’s photos could also be shared or altered by people who create child pornography.”

A 2020 study in the United Kingdom revealed that the average parent posts around 1,500 pictures of their child online before the age of five.

This widespread sharing of children’s images contributes to the growing concern of identity fraud, with “sharenting” projected to account for two-thirds of identity fraud cases involving young people by 2030.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children’s Fund noted that globally, about 79 per cent of 15 to 24-year-olds are online.

Of this figure, sexual exploitation and abuse ranked the highest risk children faced online.

The online privacy expert urged parents to reflect on the potential long-term impact of their social media posts.

“Make sure you set your privacy settings on all your social media platforms so that only close friends and family can see your posts, and – if possible – restrict who can tag or share them. Turn off geotagging so the location of each photo isn’t revealed.

“Also, be mindful of posting on certain days. Posting photos on the first day of your child’s school or birthday reveals important information about them. Think twice before posting photos on these special days, and consider whether other children will also be in the pictures, as their parents might not want them on social media,” he further warned.

Cooke encouraged parents to consider their child’s consent and future implications before sharing any content online.

“Ask yourself, has my child permitted me to post this photo, and is it embarrassing for them if others see it – either now or many years later? Will they be bullied at school for it, or will future employers see it on their profile?

“Some believe that parents should refrain from posting any photos of their child at all, as this violates their right to control their image. This is something to keep in mind when deciding whether to post or not,” he added.

For those who still wish to share photos, Cooke suggested using private social networks like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram Direct Messages, which offer a more secure and ad-free environment for sharing content with trusted individuals.

He stated that these options provide an ad-free, secure and private place for photo-sharing with close friends and family without the risk of it getting into unauthorised persons.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *