My friend Jon forgot I have a 6-year-old son. I'm the only mom he knows who doesn’t post their kid everywhere – or anywhere. Why, he asked?
I’ve snapped over 60,000 photos of my little boy over the years. Like every mom out there, I think my son is beautiful. While I am a huge fan of social media, I've posted less than a handful of photos of him, and those are ones where you can’t see his face for privacy reasons.
Social media has opened up the world in myriad ways, but it has also narrowed it down and the more you post, the more cutting edge technology can learn about every aspect of your life.
Be careful what you post online
Technology magazine Wired points out not only how is it fairly impossible to scrub the internet clean of your digital footprint, but also how companies not limited to Amazon, Facebook and Google all have enormous amounts of data about you, everything from your likes and dislikes to health information and social connections.
It is so important to think before you post on social media, especially about your kids and their right to privacy, because once the information is out there, you are never reeling it all back in.
As a reporter, the first thing I do is check a person's online profile. Social media makes it a breeze to learn everything about someone's life.
Parents make a ton of decisions for their children, but kids should make the choice if they want to be on social media. However, most little ones don’t even have a chance to say anything, because often they appear even before they are born with an ultrasound photo announcing their arrival.
USA TODAY's David Mastio: The digital media experiment is ruining our children's lives. We owe it to them to stop.
According to a study by Parent Zone and Nominet, the average parents share almost 1,500 photos of their kids online before their fifth birthday.
And photos give away more information that most realize. One picture can tell me where you are on a weekly basis. If a person posts their kids at basketball practice, all I need to do is look up the team logo and location to find them. That is, if the person has not already tagged their location.
Staying safe online
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children knows the importance of online safety, and it has set up a program, netsmartz.org, to help teach adults and kids how to stay safe.
“The most important thing we can do as adults is model this safer behavior for our children so they have a positive example to follow,” explains Eliza McCoy, executive director of Training and Prevention at NCMEC.
Also, what adults post today can haunt their kids tomorrow. Those potty training photos that parents find so charming are perfect pictures for bullying later on. Those sweet photos of your kids wearing matching pajamas with you, which I have several of, sure they are adorable, but might horrify your kids when they are older.
Or worse, your child's photos can be digitally "kidnapped," posted to inappropriate or pedophilic websites and social media accounts; due dates, birth dates, birth cities, and other personal data can be stolen and used later.
I’d like my son to blaze his own trail, and find his own voice, make his own decision about an online presence.
USA TODAY's Theresa Olohan: Billie Eilish is right. Porn is inflicting serious harm on America's children.
If he wants to be on social media, fabulous, maybe he will even friend me. If he bucks the trend, then perhaps that ups his chances of working for the CIA or FBI in a covert position, as no social media scrubbing needs to be done.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Safety, privacy: Parents, don't post photos of your child online.