Obviously, things that are posted online live forever—somewhere. That’s a message that parents try to impress upon teens that may be tempted to sext, or on college kids that like to post pics of themselves getting wasted at the bar. It’s just not a good idea. But the photos that parents post aren’t exempt from being used for bad purposes or from giving the wrong impression somewhere down the line. Unfortunately, a new study shows that parents are actually incredibly oblivious about it, with British folks posting, on average, nearly 1,000 photos of their kids before age 5, according to a new study.
That’s a staggering amount of digital exposure for the small people that have no say over it.
The study, from advocacy group the Parent Zone, found that the problem actually escalates as kids get older: Parents of teens up to the age of 16 share on average 208 images of their children online per year. And, widening the “oblivious” footprint, many parents admit posting photos of other families’ kids without asking permission first.
Facebook and Instagram at times seem almost custom-made to showcase photos and videos of our children, as they’re passing milestones, doing something humorous or being the faces of a family vacation or weekend outing. Sure, the “Little Jimmy’s favorite snack is peaches! [insert pic with peaches]” variety of posting seems innocuous (if deeply annoying to many), but the problem is that parents almost never bother to check their privacy settings to see what’s public and what isn’t.
Also, about 39% believe they own the sole rights to images posted on Facebook, and 17% think the same for Instagram—but the reality is that they don’t, in both cases. In fact, the terms and conditions of many social media sites, including Facebook and Instagram, state they have the right to use uploaded images to promote their services without explicitly asking the permission of the person that uploaded the photo.
Perhaps most disturbing: Despite 70% of parents reporting that their main gadget for taking photos was a smartphone, fewer than half (49%) were aware that location data shows where photos were taken—often down to the city block, in Facebook’s case.
It would appear that a complete lack of common sense is mixing with a certain amount of familial narcissism—on an everyday basis.
“No one would want a potential employer browsing through their baby photos, so making sure privacy settings are applied properly is always a good idea,” said Vicki Shotbolt, CEO and founder of The Parent Zone. “Of course parents should feel comfortable uploading photos to social networks, but thinking about whether it’s an appropriate image first will go a long way to avoiding any unwanted repercussions in the future.”
Sure, Facebook and social networking in general is a good way to keep friends and family near and far up to date on what’s happening—and you know, kids do grow so fast. But would it kill people to be a little more cognizant of who can track their kids through what’s being posted online?