How grandparents risk losing kids’ safety online

Also known as “grand-sharenting” is a common practice for grandparents to post pictures of their grandchildren online without regard for privacy settings. They don’t care who’s viewing them or what the audience setting is set to. My mum posts pics of her grandsons and daughters everywhere on the internet. As profile pictures, posts with captions on Facebook, and display pictures on WhatsApp. The same goes for my dad. I’m sure you too have someone in the family who does it non-stop. You’re not alone.

According to one study, an average grandparent or sometimes parent shares about 1500 photos of their kids online before their fifth birthday. Children today have a footprint online before they’ve realized the dangers of online privacy and security. Heck, even before they’re born! You know how pregnant mothers post images of ultrasound. OK, Google can’t ID the child or Facebook AI can’t hoard facial data just yet, but you get the point?

What are the biggest concerns about sharing photos online?

To get the grandparents to see the fact that it’s not safe to put up pictures like that is teaching them something, not of their generation. They’d argue it’s out of love and they want to express it with their group of friends on Facebook or whom they’ve added to their circle online. They don’t understand that Photos by Google, Facebook, or online sharing of any kind isn’t kind.

The two biggest concerns are identity theft and child pornography.

1. Identity theft

It’s relatively easy. With oversharing of photos by parents and grandparents alike, a study by Bank of Barclay revealed that by 2030, you can expect 7.4 million cases of identity theft and it can cost future generations a hefty $900 million.

Why it’s easy? Because fraudsters only need to put together names, birthdays, and addresses from online data that’s shared, and voila! The fraudster is ready to steal an identity. The same can be used to take a dig or crack passwords. Consider all the secret questions being set to; favorite pet, the first elementary school you went to or name of your high school, favorite team, or birthplace, etc.

2. Child pornography

According to Leah Plunkett author of the “Sharenthood: Why We Should Think Before We Talk About Our Kids Online”, a law professor who specializes in children & digital media studies says the pictures seen in child pornography are real children that were photoshopped offline.

Parental controls exist but what if one of your own can’t control themselves from posting online.

What can you do or what’s the solution?

Well, you can’t get into a squabble over posting photos online with your elders, but you can have a serious conversation with them about the importance of data privacy. I know of a social media influencer, who has never shared his son’s photo online despite the announcement a few years ago and continues to abide by it. That’s partially due to trolls in the comments who can wreak havoc and starts calling your kid names, etc. which is cyberbullying and harassment of sorts, but I envy him for the fact that his son’s online footprint is secure.

In an ideal world free from social media, you won’t post pictures online but today you can’t help it. Simple tips to abide by are:

  • Do not overshare
  • Keep settings private limiting to immediate family members and friends whom you trust.
  • Discuss among each other if it’s okay to share an “XYZ” photo? Can it be embarrassing for the child later when he or she comes off age? Also, people don’t take kindly to cute pictures of others’ kids if they don’t or can’t have kids. Their comments may not be the “best wishes” they’re portraying.
  • Disable the option to download photos.
  • Disable automatic upload of photos to cloud services such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc. Try offline photo albums or frames to revel in the memories (as practically possible) just like in the olden days of our grandparents. Make them see they did fine with the physical photo albums at the time.
  • To back up photo data, use flash drives, a separate hard disk or SSD storage.

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