The Importance Of Giving Your Child Online Privacy

Every Facebook user knows someone who posts a picture of their child or newborn baby as a profile picture. What starts as an innocent attempt to share love for one’s family with close friends can end in an act of high visibility when you have hundreds, or even thousands of Facebook contacts. At a time when we are encouraging our teenagers to reflect carefully on whom to trust online, perhaps we should also check our own behaviour on their behalf.

It’s all too common nowadays to see people’s personal gripes on facebook. One mother recently confessed to liking her son more than her daughter, and another mother controversially compared her own son to a high school shooter. Both received all kinds of condemnation in the press, and the issue has led to a serious discussion about the responsibility of parents to look after their kids’ privacy online. The emotional impact is obvious – nothing is private in the world of facebook, and any statement made on impulse may linger for years and haunt the child concerned.

The advent of Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram mean that your children’s full details may be available on the web to anyone who chooses to look for them. While this might harm their emotional wellbeing, the practical effects are also potentially dangerous. With 69% of adults now regularly using social networking sites, millions of children are now exposed to the public. ID fraud is very easy to commit in these cases – all a criminal needs is a child’s name, date of birth and address in order to make your child one of the ten million identities stolen per year. Though the figures are much smaller, there is also a very real risk from stalkers and child abusers.

Even putting aside the worst case scenarios, all parents owe it to themselves to get up to date with how technology is developing. Employers, universities and even the police have been known to use social networking sites to research individuals, so any negative information you provide could seriously impact your child’s future as well as their emotional wellness, both at the time of embarrassment and when they grow up. Everyone can remember how embarrassing they found their childhood photos, so imagine having every moment of your life documented online. That is a digital legacy that can never be removed and one that the child concerned has no say in.


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