Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Love your child? Keep them safe!

My boys are the most beautiful, gorgeous, amazing and lovely people in the whole widee world. They are my life and soul. And they are practically absent on my social media profiles. If you are someone who knows me only virtually, you can well believe that I have nothing to say about my boys.

A lot of people stay away from social networking sites, believing it to be nothing more than a means to pry and spy into the lives of others. Indeed it is, but in ways much worse than we imagine. I have friends and family spread in different parts of the world, and social media is a lovely way, for me to stay connected to them, without having to find time especially for each one. Easy way to stay updated about their life events, big or small. I stay on, and don't regret it for one bit. But gone are my days of over enthusiastic naivete, when  recorded every big and small event of my life up there, esp those of the boys.

To be honest, I love watching pictures of my friends' kids. Its fun, them doing their sweet antics or sleeping, or achieving, getting awarded... its really nice to see that. But the question lurking behind it is, am I the only one watching them? Or are there people, the parents are unaware of, who watch those photos as well? People with not very good intentions, may I add. A person, who is truly intent, can not only see the photos uploaded on social media, irrespective of whether they are on the friend list or not, but can read the data embedded in those pictures, and use that to locate the school, home, activity locations and so on, of the child. Now just imagine this person to be a pedophile or a serial killer. That is not a risk I am willing to take, with regards to my children. No, it does not happen to everybody, but it does, and it could to anyone.

I love a certain moment of the day when my sons play together, or are doing something or achieve something, and I want to shout out to the world, "Just look, how awesome are my kids!". Aren't they the best, the cutest? I swell up with love and pride. Typical parent syndrome I know, but with effort, I have learnt to control it, and not post these moments which I capture onto the social media.

Now, think about status messages, not just photos, things that talk about your child's achievements, likes, dislikes and more. How much easier is it, for someone to lure away a child, who has authentic information to use, their real name , along with those of family members and more. No, no and a big NO, if you think that your privacy settings are keeping you safe from the unknown people. Its out there, once on the Internet, you just can't take it back.How many of the people on your friend list do you know well enough. Are you a 100% sure not even one of them is likely to take a pic, morph it and misuse it? Are you ready to compromise on that?

That is, just about the real scary bits. Now to try an experiment. Facial Recognition. Each time you uplad a photo of your child onto Facebook, and tag it, the website, starts compiling a database of the facial features. So upload 5 photos of your child and tag it. When you upload the 6th, there will be an auto prompt with the right name. So basically the face is now digitally recognisable FOR LIFE. Its basically robbing a child of their digital anonymity for life. And I think that is unfair. How often will the child grow up and approve of his life being recorded and freely distributed to the social circle of his/her parents? Moments that the child might have enjoyed in the safety and privacy of his home. No matter how young, don't post photos of your baby in the tub. Its not safe. There are minds, which are twisted beyond our imagination, and the last thing a parent wants to do, is put their own child up as fodder for such people.

I have stopped. There are no photos of the boys on social media any longer. I barely ever write anything about them, and overtime, the urge to do so has reduced as well. What I do, though, is share insane amount of news about them, and their photos , with my friends and family, through personalised channels like the e-mail. Yes, I need to, somewhere atleast, I am a mother as proud of my sons as any other. I would not give them up for anything. They are more amazing than I have words to describe, but that is for me to know, and share sensibly with people who truly love them.

If you are a regular sharer of photos and personal information about your children, I request you to go through this link, which gives you a few pointers to be safer. But nothing is better than them leading safe real lives, without any digital identity whatsoever, especially when they are too young to be on the Internet themselves.

Another article to explain the dangerous potential of photos on the Internet.

Love your child? Keep them safe!

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