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To Post or Not to Post? A Guide for Parents on Online Privacy and Safety for Their Kids

Today I want to talk about a very important topic: how careful do we need to be when posting pictures of our kids online? What is the limit and what are the biggest watch outs?

I know many of us love to share our precious moments with our family and friends on social media. It's a great way to stay connected and celebrate our kids' achievements and milestones. But we also need to be aware of the potential risks and dangers that come with exposing our children's identity and privacy online.

Most parents biggest fear why they dont post pictures of their kids online are sexual predators. Although this is a certain risk with an estimated 500.000 active predators any given time online according to FBI , the risk can be managed by educating your children about social media, as well as by supervising the content they consume and when they consume it ( starting at what the main targets are children between 10-15 years old, not babies). So if you are extra worried about this happening to your baby or toddler pictures, don't be.

The biggest risks are actually overseen or overlooked by parents, which are more likely to happen if we are not adering to some basic rules:

Some of the risks include:

- Cyberbullying: Kids can be targeted by online bullies who may make fun of their appearance, behavior, or family. This can affect their self-esteem, mental health, and school performance. Educating your kids on how to respond to bullying as well as managing/ supervising their online presence up to a certain age is a basic factor to avoid such situations. This is even more critical once teenagers start posting pictures by themselves and the bullyies can be people from their environment, not unknown people from internet.

- Identity theft: Hackers can use the personal information and photos of our kids to create fake accounts, apply for credit cards, or commit fraud. While the risk of this happening in Europe is less than in other places, an important safety measure is to avoid any personal information like their name, date of birth or other personal details to be associated to the photos. ( like school name, address, etc). You can enable the privacy settings for social media platforms and disable geotagging as first steps.

- Creating a digital footprint - once a picture is posted online, you will loose any control over it. It can be downloaded, tagged, and altered with AI. Therefore if you choose to post - Choose wisely: Be selective about what photos you post and how often you post them. Avoid posting photos that show your child in a compromising or embarrassing situation, such as naked, crying, or sick. Also avoid posting photos that are clear with an easy background, fairly easy to be cropped or modified by people using AI.

- Ask for consent: Before posting any photo of your child, ask them if they are okay with it. Respect their wishes and feelings. If they say no, don't post it. If they are too young to understand, use your best judgment and think about how they might feel in the future.

- And most important - Educate your kids: I am all for introducing screens and technology to kids with a controlled timing and content. This will give them the abilities to navigate in what seems to be a digital future ahead of them. But teach your kids about online safety and etiquette. Explain to them why you are careful about what you post and why they should be too. Help them understand the consequences of sharing too much online and how to deal with cyberbullying or harassment. Encourage them to talk to you if they encounter any problems or have any questions.

Finally, everything you post has information that is valuable to advertisers and data collectors; posting a photo of a kid identifies you as someone who might be interested in baby products, for example, so if you hate being flooded with baby products commercials now you know why its happening.

Some legal systems such as France and Germany recognize children as owners of the right to their own images. In the US, there are still legal risks to sharing on social media. You might remember the famous case of the baby who appeared on the cover of the NIrvana album and sued the band 30 years later for violation of privacy and pornography.

I hope these tips help you make smart and safe decisions when posting pictures of your kids online. Remember, it's not about hiding or censoring your kids, but about respecting and protecting them!

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