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Think Before Posting Your Kid’s Pics!

Halloween was a fun day before Covid 19. When my kids were young, we’d go trick-or-treating and have a great time. This year, I saw pictures of the children of Facebook friends posted for Halloween. I was concerned for them, because social media has created a real nightmare for their parents. That’s why we wrote this – Mike Farhi

Today, nearly everyone has a social media account of some sort.  It is the easiest way to stay connected to friends and family or old classmates.  However, social media can also be a danger to those who post personal information about themselves.  This is especially true for those who post photos of their children. Some studies suggest that kids will have well over 1,000 pictures of themselves on social media before they reach the age of five, with about 92% of American children having an online presence by the age of two.

Parents should be cautious of the photos and information posted online about their children. Some may attract dangerous people.  For example, some photos and videos end up on disturbing websites such as child pornography sites. Child pornography offenders often sell, share, and trade images on the Dark Web. Some people simply create fake pages in which they use photos of a child from social media and give them a new name and identity, often claiming the child as their own.  This is called Digital Kidnapping. Others may use a child’s photo to create accounts on social media sites to post stolen photos along with captions that give false details about the child in the photos.  Sometimes the stranger impersonates the child by responding to comments as the child or from the child’s point of view, commonly referred to as Baby Role Playing.  This could impact a child when they are older because these posts are never actually deleted, even after being reported, and that is if they are ever discovered.  Children are incapable of giving informed consent to the reproduction of their photos.  Therefore, parents are responsible for protecting their child’s privacy.

Generally, only the author or creator of a work, including photographs, has the right to copy or distribute it.  Typically, a photographer has ownership rights to his or her photos at the moment the pictures are taken, except when hired to take photos for someone else.  However, online, the creator owns the underlying work but grants permission to the website to use it in any manner consistent with its terms of use or privacy standards. Most people do not read these terms before accepting them.

To protect your child, there are several things that you can do if you would like to share photos of your child on social media. First, choose the photos that you post very carefully.  Child pornography offenders can retouch or photoshop your child’s photo and share it on the dark web.  Never share personal information such as your child’s full name, date, and place of birth, school they attend, etc., along with their photos. When taking photos, avoid street names and numbers that can be used to locate your child.  Also, avoid posting photos of your child in school uniforms as that can also be identified and used to locate your child.

Also, you can change the privacy settings on your social networking site. Most social media platforms give you the ability to control your privacy settings. For example, you can control whether you would like to allow the public to view your page, only your friends, or only you. You can also routinely check your friends list and remove people who are not close friends.  In addition, you can turn off metadata and geotagging for your photos so that no one can locate your children.

Be aware that sometimes you have no control over whether a photo is private or available to the public. For example, Facebook no longer has a privacy setting for your cover photo, therefore, any photo uploaded to your Facebook page as a cover photo is automatically made available to view by the public.   Also, parents should know that you cannot control who is viewing your page through a friend’s account.  Anyone viewing your page can take a screenshot of it without actually saving it. Once a screenshot has been taken, it can be cropped and manipulated.  Screenshots can be easily saved and no longer within your control.

In addition, you can place a watermark on the photos that you decide to share.  A watermark may discourage someone from taking a screenshot or saving the photo.  It can also provide some protection against copyright infringement.

Finally, you can always ask friends and family to refrain from posting pictures or videos of your child or require them to ask for your approval before posting. To send photos to family and friends in a more secure way, you can send them through WhatsApp which uses encryption end-to-end preventing hackers from getting your data.  You can also create a private, invitation-only album on sites such Flickr.

Sadayah Q. DuRant-Brown is an attorney in New Jersey who graduated from Rutgers School of Law, where she was Editor of the Race and The Law Review Journal.

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