Hi all! Internet safety and privacy is a topic I have been thinking of discussing for a while now. In this day and age we often don’t think twice when we post that photo from a classroom party or a video from our latest vacation on social media.
I finally decided I was going to write on this topic the other day as I sat in my car, disabled on the Beltway on-ramp, waiting for a tow truck. It was the scariest moment of my life, and I was simply grateful that my son and I weren’t harmed. When Lil’ Man and I set out to run our errands that day, I never thought my accelerator would get stuck while trying to merge onto the interstate. Never did I think that people would be so callous as to keep me from safely merging on (one driver even matched my speed to keep me from getting over) which left me with a split second decision to gun it or pull over to the shoulder.
Anyway, the point of this little story is that just because you can’t see the danger doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I never thought in my life that I would be desperately trying to gain control of a continuously accelerating vehicle with my most precious possession in the backseat.
I think most of us, when we are sharing our lives on the Internet, forget that there is danger out there, especially for our children. When Lil’ Man approached my husband and me about making YouTube videos our immediate response was “no.” If you follow my blog, then you know I not only take measures to protect my own child’s privacy, but that of other children who might be in a video or photo I post.
Well, Lil’ Man persisted in his desire to be a YouTuber and I came to the realization that I could either do it with him now, and make sure it is done safely, or risk him making videos on his own when he is older. After much debate, my husband and I decided we would help him make videos with the following two stipulations:
- We protect his identity/privacy: He is not allowed to show his full face or use his real name.
- The videos must have an educational element.
Our family and friends across the country have loved the videos. He even now has a small, loyal following. I also love that it has allowed him to take a more active role in my blog which provides a real world learning experience for him. He has enjoyed seeing the positive reactions and comments to his videos which has him excited to create more content.
I’m still apprehensive despite all the benefits, but I also realize that I am powerless to stop random strangers at places like Disney World or a local museum from posting media that he might be in.
The Big 5
Here are the five things I do to protect my child and others when posting on the Internet that I recommend other parents consider following as well.
- I know you get a lot of reading to do at the beginning of the school year, but make sure you understand the school’s policies regarding photos/videos of students. The policies vary from district to district with some being stricter than others. Use these policies as a guide when posting online, especially if sharing content from your child’s classroom.
- If you are going to post a photo or video from your child’s classroom on your social media account(s), remember that the parents of other children may not want their child’s photo online. Either crop the image or blur the faces of children whose parents have not given you permission to post their child’s image.
- Example: I had an elementary student with a restraining order against a parent. This student’s photo and name was not allowed online for his protection.
- When posting on private social media accounts, like Facebook, I always tag my child as my husband. My husband will be alerted if anyone is sharing Lil’ Man’s photos without our consent.
- For my blog and other public accounts, I do the following:
- Take pictures with Lil’ Man facing away from me or only revealing a small portion of his profile.
- Blur his face in photo editing software when using a picture taken from the front or take the photo on my DSLR with his face out of focus.
- Use the blurring tools under Enhancements-Blurring Effects on YouTube. You can view our Highlights from Enchanted Tales with Belle video to see how I only blurred the faces of minors.
- If blogging or sharing on a publicly viewed account, consider giving your child a moniker like I do for Lil’ Man.
Remember, it is not only child predators that you have to be concerned about. Providing information like your child’s name can leave him or her vulnerable to identity theft. When you feel your child is ready, have the conversation with them about stranger danger online and don’t be afraid to actively monitor their Internet use, especially when it comes to social media. Stay safe and thanks for stopping by!