With so many options to upload videos and images, blog about your little one’s milestones, or find support on the internet, it’s all too easy to share every aspect of your family’s life with your online community. In fact, according to a recent survey by marketing research firm Ipsos, almost a quarter of social media users around the world share “everything” or “most things” online. But do you really know who’s looking at the images you post, or what they’re doing with them?
“In the ever-changing digital landscape, it’s critical to always act in a safe, responsible manner online and use your common sense” says Jacqueline Fick, executive head of Forensic Services at Cell C. “Because you’re protecting your children’s rights, as well as your own, my golden rule is that if you wouldn’t say or do something in the real world, don’t do it on the internet.”
Not sure how to go about protecting your children’s privacy? Use these tips from Jacqueline as a guide…
Post images responsibly
Before you post cute images of your children bathing or swimming naked in a swimming pool on social media, stop and think whether you would put these same images on a billboard across a busy highway for everyone to see. “When I ask parents this question, their answer is always a resounding ‘no’. The truth is, if their privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram are open to all, then they’re doing just that,” explains Jacqueline. “Those images are there for the whole world to see. And it’s even worse on the internet, because the image remains there,” she adds.
“Unfortunately, we live in a world where there are a lot of mentally ill individuals who trawl the internet looking for these types of images of children – either to sell online or to view themselves, and the risk is growing all the time, so you can never be too careful,” says Jacqueline.
Rethink how you share images
Basically, you have three options to share images safely. You can enable stricter privacy settings on the social media platforms you’re already using. Jacqueline also suggests creating closed family or friend groups on WhatsApp. You could also sign up to a more secure, password-protected photo service, such as Photobucket, which will allow you to store, edit, share and print photos of your loved ones safely.
Respect other children’s privacy
Whether you’re happily snapping pictures of your child’s birthday party or concert at nursery school, remember the law states, under the Child Protection Act as well as the Films and Publications Act, that you don’t have the right to post images of other people’s children online without their permission, says Jacqueline. This also applies to holiday photos or images taken at a group class such as Clamber Club or Moms and Tots. On the flip side, know when your child’s right to privacy has been infringed, so that you can take it up with the police and parties involved.
Enable privacy settings on Facebook
If you’re concerned about your children’s faces being displayed on Facebook without your knowledge of it, Facebook has a tag review tool that, it says, “Lets you approve or dismiss tags that people add to your posts. When you turn it on, any time someone tags something you posted, that tag won’t appear until you approve it.”
You can also use the timeline review function to review posts your children are tagged in before the posts appear on another user’s timeline. If your child is tagged in something you’re uncomfortable with, you can remove the tag or ask the person to take the post down.
Know your rights
In South Africa, Jacqueline explains that the online world is still a young democracy and we have different legislation that governs the cyber world. But the good news is, a new bill called the Cyber Crimes and Security Bill should be passed soon. The bill puts all these pieces of legislation together in one act, including cyber bullying and protection of children online. The bill will also address the posting of images that can be hurtful to parents and children on the internet, explains Jacqueline.
Protect your family
If you decide to create a profile on a social media platform, make sure you only offer minimal information. An innocent location “check in” post could easily be used as intelligence by criminals who are looking for an open house to target. Check your privacy settings so your posts don’t land in the wrong hands. If you prefer an open profile, avoid tagging your location.
“We also need to teach older children not to post that kind of information online,” says Jacqueline. If your kids are old enough to have their own social media accounts, make sure they don’t reveal where they live, go to school or any personal family details.
“The biggest myth we believe is that cybercrime won’t happen to us, but we are far more exposed than we think. However, there are a few things we can do that will make it more difficult for criminals to take advantage of us and our families,” says Jacqueline. Here are her tips…
Your phone, tablet and PC
- Update your security settings regularly. Keep your software up to date to prevent cyber criminals from hacking into your PC, tablet or smartphone.
- You might be able to insure your device, but you can’t insure your information. Always back up your images, contacts and private information to Google Drive, so that if your phone goes missing or falls into the wrong hands, you can wipe it remotely immediately. There’s software you can download that will allow you to do this the minute you lose your phone.
- Smartphones and tablets are high-value items. Secure your phone with at least two patterns – an emergency password and pin, plus a fingerprint. It might sound excessive, but you should make it as difficult as possible for people to obtain access to your phone.
- Always download apps and games from a trusted source such as Google Play or the iTunes Store. Avoid downloading from websites. Some apps can contain malicious software or viruses that can track your location and pick up all your personal details without you realising it.
- Change your social media passwords often. If, for example, you see that your Facebook account has been hacked, change your password immediately and notify Facebook.
- Check who can look over your “social media fence”. Be aware of who you befriend on social media.
- Don’t allow friends of friends to see your posts. By being friends with those who have open accounts, strangers will be able to see your posts too, especially when you’re tagged in photos.
- Remember public is public. If you use internet cafés or Wi-Fi hotspots, remember that these services are public, and can expose your personal information without you realising it. Using your own mobile data or a secure Wi-Fi connection is safer.
- Always take note of the websites you use, as well as your transaction history. Scrutinise your bank statements for odd transactions – especially if you shop online regularly.
- Don’t use your bank card or banking details on websites you don’t trust. If you see anything unusual on your statements, call your bank immediately.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike.