Children and Social Media
Once a photo hits any type of social media platform, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Reddit, etc., it becomes their image, not yours. When you agreed to the terms and conditions you gave them full rights to your original photographs. This means that you are essentially handing over ownership of your images for the site owners to use however they wish. This gives pretty much anyone the ability to download, share, copy and alter your images.
Once you post a photo of your child and other people get their hands on it, what they use it for is out of your control. Even if you delete the photo there is a chance that someone will misuse it in some way if they have a warped mind and computer hacking skills.
What are the biggest risks associated with photographs of your young child on social media? Identity theft is the frontrunner. How do children’s images appearing on one of the social networking platforms turn into an identity theft issue? Read on for an explanation and examples.
A birth announcement can start hackers interest in your situation. These often include full names and dates of birth and perhaps a hospital or town location. Details can be filled in by searching for friends and family who may have less robust security settings. Grandparents are a prime target as like with parents they wish to share photos of everything from a first smile to the first day of school and everything in between.
Many people will accept friend requests without a whole lot of information. We live in an era where sharing our lives on social media comes almost instinctively and without filter to many. Some social media sites don’t require permission at all, they can simply follow whomever they want to information target.
Another popular post is birthday celebrations. From this a scammer can obtain names and ages. Combined with meta data from the image for location, the hacker has enough information to purchase a Social Insurance Number from unreputable sources to start building a false identity using your child’s name and date of birth. Canadian Passports for children that come with false supporting documents are extremely valuable.
Canada has a law on the books that children born here have birthright citizenship. While birth tourism is not illegal, it is expensive. Purchasing a passport and ID documents for a child that was born elsewhere can turn that child into an anchor baby. Babies and young children cannot be extensively questioned by immigration officers so children under three are targeted for this market.
Don’t assume because of the colour of your skin your child is not a target. Due to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, Canada is seeing a large increase in immigration applications from those countries and a baby (fake) born in Canada increases the chance of a successful application. There is a continual need for brown, black and Asian children as well which makes passports and documentation a valuable commodity for thieves.
As only a small number of infants and young children have passports this is a scam that takes years to discover as it won’t come to light until you need to either apply for a passport for your child or request a social insurance number for them only to find it has already been issued to an unknown individual.
Social media is the portal through which hackers can enter your life as security tends to be low. Financial scammers, identity thefts and cyber bullies often start small with almost no consequences and therefore it goes unnoticed. Strengthening your security is a must if you want to post images of your children. Unfortunately, you cannot make other people’s security higher, nor can you stop all sharing or screen shots.
Embarrassing childhood photographs no longer disappear into a forgotten photo album. Many HR departments do a thorough social media search before hiring a job candidate. Any old and previously considered amusing post may affect their job prospects.
Is it possible to share your children’s antics and photographs safely?
Cyber security experts concur that it is next to impossible to safely share photographs of your children on social media. Posting information about your children online in any formation starts your child’s digital footprint. This will follow your child forever.
Sharing photographs of your children impacts more than just you. Be mindful of what you post, giving careful consideration to how it could be misconstrued or misused. Hackers pick up clues from your photographs which may disclose other information so check backgrounds and remove identifying information.
While many experts advise against “sharenting” it is still possible to post family pictures. Turn off the location coordinates on your camera so that the location data is not available and cannot be obtained. This is particularly important if you wish to post a school event such as a Christmas pageant so that strangers are not able to see the location where your child attends school. Another alternative is to not have your child facing the camera. A passport photo needs a full-face shot, don’t give it to anyone but you.
In addition, it is necessary for you, as a parent or grandparent, to ensure that other children are not identifiable from your social media images. This is particularly difficult when dealing with sports events. If you want to post photographs you must obtain consent from either the child or their parents. Without consent you may not post unless you block out their facial features.
Once your child is older, ask them for their consent and respect their wishes if they decline. They may be dealing with teasing or bullying or may simply be shy and are not comfortable with their business being discussed on a social media platform. As parents it is your responsibility to protect, and this is yet another aspect to consider.
As a Plaintiff personal injury firm, we may ask you to suspend or discontinue your use of social media so that the contents cannot be used against you. A photo or short video will not tell the whole story, but could be sufficient to damage your claim if shown to a jury. This is becoming a more frequent problem so we are trying to raise awareness of the negative impact social media can have on your children, your life and maybe even a future injury claim.