Social media teaser

Social media teaser

Most of us know the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” But how much is our young children's privacy and identities worth?

This is the season when most of us look forward to getting those cute pictures of our children and grandchildren with their trick-or-treat costumes on, Thanksgiving outfits and smiles on Christmas day. These are wonderful, precious memories that some Internet trolls, predators and prankster take advantage of.

As joyful as it is watching a video of a tiny fairy princesses playing with a cat or receiving thousands of hits on a Facebook page, should parents be more cautious about postings pictures or videos of young children online? How we can better protect our young children from the dangers of the Internet but still share special moments with family and friends? Here are seven tips.

1. Understand the three Ps of the internet — pervasive, permanent and predatory. In other words, be aware that whatever you place on the Internet no longer belongs to you. Whatever you put online is there forever and is subjected to being abused by dangerous persons who may even live nearby.

2. Limit other people’s access to your social media pages. Only allow access to your information to certain people in your inner circle. Insist that family members do not copy or distribute pictures without your permission. A quick instant message, email or phone call is all that is needed to safeguard our children’s identity.

3. Update and eliminate family information on the Internet each week. Reduce the amount of time pictures are exposed online. Conduct weekly clean-ups of posted information. Remove them from the Internet and let family know you will send them out as a Christmas gift in hard copy form. Routinely change your password and eliminate specific information that will identify your location or personal information.

4. One sure way to eliminate Internet risk is to not post pictures of very young children. Similar to the first few weeks and months of our children’s lives we don’t expose them to other people for medical protection. The same could hold true for Internet protection.

5. Use a written post of the event without a picture. Send the picture via email, text or snail mail.

6. Use “imaging” to distort your child’s video image or have your young children record their feelings about the event like they are telling a story. Hearing their voices at different times in their lives is very powerful.

7. Have your children draw pictures of events. The pictures can become wonderful keepsakes.

Whatever you decide to do when it comes to posting pictures of your young children online, just keep in mind that the Internet is a real place with real people who you don’t know. Protect your children and your family. Finally, ask yourself, "Would I leave snapshots of my young child at bus stops? In coffee shops? Or in other people’s homes I don’t know?"

It's your responsibility to give your child safe passage to adulthood. It's time you, as a parent, acquire Internet savvy. Naivety is too costly.

Bridget Barnes has more than 30 years of experience as a Health and Human Services professional. Bridget joined Boys Town's Family Services Research and Development department to assist with creating what is now the evidence-based Common Sense Parenting program.