Let's start with this: the discussion that led to this week's Digital Savant column began with a Slate article that I personally found ridiculous. I mean, after the first two or three paragraphs. Then it went completely off the rails in CrazyTown and the train never recovered and returned.
The Slate post, nevertheless, got passed around a lot and the talk it has generated, I think, is useful. We should be talking about the photos we post of our kids online: what is and isn't appropriate to post and what the long-term effect might be of creating a visual record of our children's lives available online for all to see.
In the column (subscription or 99-cent day pass required), I speak to two Austinites who have a lot of experience with kid photos and privacy concerns: the founder and president of Austin slideshow software company Photodex Corp. and the CEO of a MomCom Life, a mom blogging and conference events company.
Here's an excerpt:
But out in the wilderness of Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and dozens of other online photo services, Photodex founder Paul Schmidt says, many people don’t think about if what they’re posting could be a privacy or safety problem for their kids.
“It’s just not on enough people’s mind,” he said. “If you went up to 100 people and asked, most would say they haven’t really thought about it. They’re just putting together photos for their family; it doesn’t even occur to them that what they’re doing could be seen by anybody else.”
A few other things that I didn't have room to include in the column:
- In addition to what photos parents post of their kids online, it's also important to consider what children can post online themselves. This is a good time to have a conversation about family passwords and what services kids (especially teenagers) are allowed to use and for parents to make sure privacy options on social media sites are set.
- Some families put photos behind password-protected sites, but even this is not a cure-all. You have to think about how much you trust that site to maintain its privacy settings long-term and also consider that anyone who views your photos could easily download the images and pass them on without your knowledge, even inadvertently or with the best intentions. (Say a family member who sees a great family photo then grabs it and shares it publicly on Facebook). Make sure to make it clear to family/friends when you DON'T want your photos re-shared.
- Make sure you're aware of what photos your child's school may be posting online. Some schools send out a form asking parents if they're OK with group class photos or photos from school events being posted online. If your child's school hasn't made you aware of their policies for posting photos to the web, find out if that's happening and decide if you're OK with that.
Got other suggestions for parents? Please share them with us in the comments.
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