5 Biggest Risks of Sharing Photos of Your Kids on Facebook

mom looking on laptop with her two children

Most of us share so much of our lives with our Facebook friends that we don't even bat an eyelash about posting images documenting the arrival of our new baby, a video of their first steps, a gallery of images celebrating their first day of kindergarten. Really, why would we when the practice is more common than not?

A survey of 4,000 young adults, which was done as part of the Longitudinal Study of American Youth, found that 66 percent of parents reported posting pictures of their children online, and slightly more than 56 percent shared news of a child's accomplishment. And get this: 92 percent of children in the US have an online presence before they're 2 years old, according to a 2010 study by Internet security firm AVG.

That said, there's definitely a case against what has been referred to as "Facebook parenting" and very real risks associated with posting pictures of your kids on Facebook and other places online.

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Because while the social network is a free service, there are quite a few hidden "costs" of posting images and info about our children in such a public way.

We rounded up 5 big reasons you might want to dial your Facebook kid-sharing tendencies down -- or cut 'em out completely.

1. You may be stepping on your child's anonymity and consent. While it may not be something we think about all the time, we're essentially taking control of our child's digital identity from the get-go. For instance, what if those once-goofy baby photos come back to haunt your little pumpkin later in their teen years?

"Posting photos of your kids creates a digital footprint -- a kind of electronic paper trail -- that forms their identities in a world they haven't chosen to enter," note experts at Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering kids to thrive in a world of media and technology.

What's more, new software is relying more and more on face recognition. (You need only post a selfie to Facebook and see how quickly you're asked to tag yourself to see how ubiquitous it's becoming.) Putting your child's face out there may make it easier for them to be recognized digitally by strangers.

More from The Stir: 5 Facebook Photos Parents Shouldn't Post

2. Someone may try to use your child's image in a bad way without your knowledge. No parent would want to see her little one's picture passed off as someone else or used in an unsavory context, and posting photos on social media could put you at risk for this.

Vanessa Bell, blogger at De Su Mama, wrote about this happening to her, calling it "a nightmare" when a woman stole her child's images off her blog and allegedly claimed the little girl was her own for "almost an entire year." Bell had to take legal action and go to bat with Facebook, Twitter, etc., to have her daughter's pictures removed under the woman's profile. Meanwhile, Huffington Post blogger Julia Fierro wrote an essay about how she was horrified to learn a photo of her child had become a viral meme.

3. Depending on your settings, you may be sharing your child's location. GPS-enabled phones and location tracking integrated into photos by your camera or smartphone may offer up sensitive information like your child's school address, your family's home address, and other places you frequent (like parks or shopping centers).

4. Advertisers can target you -- and your kids. They're not exactly predators in the conventional sense, but marketers use your activity on Facebook to target you with certain ads. Facebook won't admit that the content of your status updates will influence how you're targeted, but there's a lot of smoke and mirrors around all the factors that marketers and data collectors have access to.

5. Your child's identity could be stolen. Any sensitive pieces of information you give away about your baby (their date of birth, place of birth, full name, or locations in images) on Facebook may make it more likely for them to become victims of identity theft -- now or down the road, caution experts at the Oxford Internet Institute.

These potential risks aside, you can take steps to safely share details and images of your family. Common Sense Media offers tips for parents on using strict privacy settings, avoiding location sharing, and other helpful hints.

How do you feel about sharing pictures of your kids on social media? Why?

 

Image via iStock.com/Zurijeta

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