One Baby Step for Fame Leaves One Giant Digital Footprint for Mankind
This post is for all the dads, moms, relatives, neighbors, and future parents or caretakers of children with an online presence.
Do you care more about the attention that may circulate from the cute and relevant photos of your children, or are you sick of ignorance and ready to protect your child’s privacy?
This may seem like an aggressive post, but I am just incredibly bothered by how flippantly parents and caretakers alike post information, pictures, or videos of their kids when we live in an era riddled by digital identity theft, sexual predators, and widely publicized data collection abuse.
Some parents begin as early as revealing their child’s full name and birthdate publicly the day they are born. This means some children have a digital footprint before they can even walk.
According to Jessica Baron from Forbes, Barclays has forecast that by 2030 “sharenting” will account for 2/3 of identity fraud, costing hundreds of millions of dollars a year. With just a name, date of birth, and address (easy enough to find in a geotagged birthday party photo on Facebook, for example), bad actors can store this information until a person turns 18 and then begin opening accounts.
Posting photos of your children may seem like the normal thing to do because of online parenting culture, but you should seriously consider the risk you are putting them at and their own privacy rights before you upload albums and albums of digital media documenting their entire lives.
Because background checks and digital footprints are so common these days, many employers, advertisers, and university admissions scour the web for data on prospective users. You putting out information about your child or someone else’s child could even accidentally put them at a disadvantage for their future employment or academic career.
Of course it is inevitable in today’s culture that most children will at some point have a digital presence before they are of legal right to decide what the ramifications of their social media accounts or viral videos. But there are a few steps we can proactively take to limit the problems that might be tied to our children’s digital footprints.
Here are 10 steps from Jessica Baron of Forbes that I have recently become aware of that will aid us in being proactive for our children’s future:
- Encourage schools to teach Internet safety and privacy. If educators and their administrators are going to utilize EdTech, they should also make time to teach students about the dangers of giving over private information. In the U.K., internet safety was made a mandatory part of the school curriculum in 2014, and it’s time for the U.S. to step up.
- Demand that schools are transparent about the data collected by their technology and ask for parental approval before letting children sign in to machines and apps, as well as give guardians the opportunity to opt their children out of the use of this technology if they feel it’s not protecting their privacy.
- Make your friends into fellow advocates so that questions about privacy are expected. Encourage them to ask about data collection in schools and medical facilities so they understand who is collecting data, how it’s being used, who it’s being shared with, how it’s being protected, and how it’s being aggregated. (It’s important to note that anonymizing data is no longer enough since hackers are easily able to de-anonymize it.)
- Research the toys you buy for children to ensure they don’t contain unsecure voice or video recording systems. Disable those systems in toys you already own and change the default passwords of gadgets your children use (as well as your home router).
- Demand that companies who market directly to minors write terms and conditions that kids can understand.
- Encourage policymakers to enact legislation that protects children’s privacy. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was passed in 1998 but there are loopholes that are constantly being exploited and the legislation needs to be updated to take into account new technology.
- Ask about and research the technology your children are using. You can’t use parental controls properly if you don’t understand the platform or app.
- Don’t post photos or videos online that reveal personal information about your children. Be mindful of the long-term implications of getting a few likes.
- Be clear with grandparents, friends, and babysitters as well about what they are allowed to share online about your children.
- Remember that Facebook and Instagram stories or Snapchat “snaps” seem ephemeral, but can easily be photographed, screen capped, downloaded, or recorded by bad actors
Remember to fight for your children’s future, and raise awareness for this issue so that your loved ones no longer live in ignorance of the ramifications of their cute, aesthetic baby photos!
Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!