Is it safe to post photos of your kids online?

Is it safe to post photos of your kids online--on Facebook, MySpace and other social networking websites? Visit any mommy blog or parenting forum on the Internet, and you’ll be sure to find this question hotly debated.

Some parents think it’s ok to share pictures if they’re within a password-protected community or can only be accessed by a select number of friends and family. Then, there are parents who feel you shouldn’t share any pictures of your children online, no matter what the circumstances are.

There are advantages and disadvantages to having at least some content about your child online. In this article, we will explore some of the risks associated with sharing photos of your kids online and clarify some of the myths about whether is it safe to post photos of your kids online.

Risks in sharing your child’s photo on the Internet

One of the first things people worry about when they think about sharing their child’s photos online is the threat of their child being targeted by a pedophile or online stalker. It’s a chilling thought, but one that does not have much basis in reality.

Image Misappropriation

In a 2009 New York Times article, Stephen Balkam, chief executive of the Family Online Safety Institute, was quoted as saying: “Research shows that there is virtually no risk of pedophiles coming to get kids because they found them online.” A more likely danger is that someone will find the photo of your child and misappropriate it in some way, which could hurt your child’s reputation.

Some cases of image misappropriation are truly bizarre. One American family found that a holiday photo they had posted online ended up being used in a front window advertisement for a grocery store in the Czech Republic. The odds that your child’s photo will end up gracing a foreign storefront are beyond unlikely, but there are other possible scenarios.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a growing problem among children and teens. If you share photos of your child that might be considered embarrassing, there is a possibility that a bully will seek them out and use them to taunt or abuse your child.

If that doesn’t seem likely, you should read up on cyberbullying. When they’re shielded by the anonymity of the Web, kids can be especially vicious, and there’s no telling what a determined bully is capable of doing.

Tips for sharing photos of your children online

If you don’t see certain family members often, Facebook and other social networking websites become a likely means to share information. That’s why, despite the risks, many parents like to post photos of their children online as a way of keeping their extended family and friends involved in their lives.

If you do want to share photos of your children on Facebook, there are a few things you should keep in mind. The following is a list of tips to help you keep your kids’ photos from winding up in front of the wrong people online:

  • If you have hundreds of Facebook friends, you shouldn’t expect them all to be interested in your photos. Most social networks have private sharing options for photographs. If you want to share photos, make sure you set up a private album so that only people whom you’ve chosen can see the images.
  • Share photos that are appropriate. Your children will eventually grow up, and no matter how cute you think those pictures of them splashing around in the tub are, you should avoid posting images that could embarrass them down the road. Think about what you share online as a digital tattoo. Whether you like it or not, it’ll be there forever. Would you brand your son or daughter with an embarrassing tattoo? Why do it with a Facebook photo?
  • Avoid pictures that give out personal information. Think hard about what kind of personal data can be discerned from a photograph before you share it online. Does the shirt your child is wearing display the name of his or her school? The likelihood of a stalker tracking down your family may be extremely low, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid taking the appropriate precautions.

If an unwanted photo of your child gets out on the Web, it is important that you get in front of it as quickly as possible. With a family plan from Reputation.com, you can safely and effectively monitor your child’s name online across blogs, social media websites, and elsewhere throughout the Web. Where possible, your Reputation.com agent can act on your behalf to try and remove content from the Web so that it does not become a permanent black mark on your son or daughter’s reputation.

So, is it safe to post photos of your kids online?  Yes, but only if done responsibly.