Social media and rampant cell phone use has changed the way new parents share pictures of their young children and stories about them. Facebook newsfeeds are riddled with images of newborn babies, days after they were born. Some parents migrated to Instagram for slightly more privacy. And many new moms are turning to blogging as a way to share new information about their children.
A few parents are fighting back against this new trend. Bloggers and writers have recently gained some Internet popularity by declaring that they had eliminated any pictures of their children online, and would refrain from sharing any more. For blogger Ryan McLaughlin, a “centralized way of sharing photos with an extended family that are thousands of kilometres away outweighed the largely fictional threat of creepy people having access to them.” It isn’t the idea that strangers might see images of their children that scares them – it’s the rampant data mining happening on every corner of the Internet.
Blogger Jeremy Goldkorn said, “How much do you trust Facebook with your data, your images, and what it knows about you and your friends? How much do you trust the NSA?” With data mining, Facebook uses any information about you that they can find to produce targeted advertisements. This isn’t limited to Facebook either – email services, Google, and other social media platforms do the same. The same websites, Internet services, and smart phone features that collect information on your relationship status, the websites you visit, your GPS coordinates, and more are also suspected of giving that data to the NSA.
This comes back to a key issue that both McLaughlin and Goldkorn are concerned about with minors’ online presence: it’s not just about privacy, but your child’s identity. By the time your children are old enough to maintain their own online presence, social media and other websites already know everything they need to target advertisements to them.
Not only does Facebook have access to your child’s embarrassing baby pictures and moments, but so do their peers. Cyberbullying has become a huge problem, leading a few teenagers in the past couple of years to suicide. If they manage to pass through high school unscathed, then they also have to deal with potential employers being able to see personal photos and judging their abilities based on that. In an article published on Slate.com, Amy Webb worried about new technologies developing that can recognize faces: “In 2011, a group of hackers built an app that let you scan faces and immediately display their names and basic biographical details, right there on your mobile phone.” There’s no way of knowing how this technology will be used, and if it will become common place by the time the current generation of newborns mature.
All of this worry about online safety for children presents an interesting conundrum for “mommy” bloggers; generally, mommy bloggers publish posts about parenting, their homes, and other relevant topics. Professional bloggers are also encouraged to take and publish their own pictures, rather than using someone else’s. Mommy bloggers are sharing pictures of their children, writing up posts about them, and then doing their best to promote their blog and generate as much traffic as possible. The NSA, data miners, peers, and future employers will have access not only to Facebook status updates and Instagram pictures, but lengthy stories describing the exact difficulties and joys of parenting that child.
Should mommy bloggers be worried about their blog posts 5-10 years down the line? Is the possibility of their posts one day coming back to haunt their children a risk they need to take for the sake of their current career?
What do you think? Tell us in the comments below.
McLaughlin, Ryan. “Removing my children from the Internet.” http://www.ryan-mclaughlin.com/fatherhood/removing-children-internet/. (17 Oct. 2013).
Goldkorn, Jeremy. “Why do you put photos of your children on Facebook?” https://medium.com/the-facebook/d4e3f0d4f01d. (17 Oct. 2013).
Webb, Amy. “We Post Nothing About Our Daughter Online.” http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/data_mine_1/2013/09/facebook_privacy_and_kids_don_t_post_photos_of_your_kids_online.html. (18 Oct. 2013).