Remember a time before social media? It’s hard to imagine, especially if you are one of the 4.2 billion people who used social media worldwide. To say it’s ‘commonplace’ is an understatement. However, as we increasingly use these platforms to connect to those around us, we often forget to stop and think about how our sharing is impacting us, now and in the future.
‘Sharenting’ – the phenomenon of parents using social media to document their children’s achievements and memories, whilst showing off their child to the world – is now in the spotlight as a major contributor to identity fraud, with many kids making their Facebook debuts before they have even left the hospital. A study by Barclays projected that ‘sharenting’, will account for two-thirds of identity fraud online by 2030, costing up to £667 million per year.
Additionally, a study by the Children’s Commissioner for England found that by the age of 13 the average child has already had 1,300 images shared on social networks by their parents or guardians. The photos and details parents share about their children – including their birthday, the school they attend, and hobbies – perhaps unsurprisingly could leave children more susceptible to identify fraud in the future.
Protecting their families by identifying the key pitfalls of ‘sharenting’ and how to avoid them should be a top priority for parents. Below, we outline three things that parents should consider.
1. Update your privacy settings
Privacy settings are the first step to preventing the consequences of ‘sharenting’. Despite the many risks, most parents are still choosing to keep their accounts public, which allows anyone, even strangers to access part, if not all, of their content.
Internet users need to take advantage of privacy settings available on all social media accounts. The safest setting is allowing only friends to view your posts. This means, for example, on Instagram, new followers would have to request to follow your account to view your posts, and on Facebook, you would ensure your privacy settings are enabled to allow just friends to view your posts.
However, whilst this is a good first step to securing your profile, this is often not enough. Even if an account is private, hackers can still gain access to your personal information through other features, such as ‘likes’ settings. If your ‘likes’ settings aren’t set to private, information such as the movies and TV shows you enjoy and places you like to visit become readily available for anyone in the public to see.
Regularly checking and doing a deep dive into all privacy settings is key to ensuring your profile is protected. For an extra level of privacy, private social media apps, like Kin, are a responsible medium for creating a truly private network with just your family and friends, without leaving you vulnerable to security threats. Additionally, subscription and ad-free models, mean they will never sell your data for marketing purposes, ensuring your information is truly secure and private. Being in control of your online presence is crucial to taking care of your children online.
2. Know your audience
Do you really know everyone on your friend list? Limiting the details shared is an easy step to safeguarding a child’s identity. Keep your posts targeted, that way the people viewing content are vetted and genuinely interested in your post.
People who use smaller, closed networks to share the details of their child’s first day at school don’t have to worry about tagging the school location in the post, as they know the only people seeing this are the ones they have carefully selected. Those who still want to share more widely should get into the habit of checking who is on your friends and followers list on social media. If there is someone on your list who you would not invite to a gathering at your home, it could be time to unfriend.
3. Exploring other platforms
Social media platforms play an important role in most of our lives, especially during the pandemic, as it replaced much of our everyday face-to-face social interaction. However, despite helping billions of people around the world stay connected, many are choosing to go through a ‘digital detox’. In addition to privacy and security threats, reports have shown social media is having a detrimental effect on our mental health, especially in younger generations – with one study from the Education Policy Institute and The Prince’s Trust showing heavy social media use is linked to negative wellbeing and self-esteem, with more girls experiencing feelings of depression and hopelessness.
But you can stay connected to those that matter to you most, whilst staying away from the negative impacts of traditional social media platforms. Kin is a prime example of a private social media network that creates a private space for close family and friends whilst having the traditional features of social media and more including the ability to share moments, photos and videos on a storyline and via in-app messaging, in addition to features such as a Young Persons Accounts where younger users can become accustomed to social media in a safe and private space.
It is natural to want to share your child’s achievements with your closest friends and family. Sharing is not the issue, how and where you share is.
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