Younger parents that have grown up with social media and use it frequently have consistently embraced the same social media for their newly borns. From sharing every update of growth of the little ones on their (parents’) social media platforms, some parents have gone further to create social media sites for their kids and constantly update them with information about the children. Harmless it seems, doesn’t it?
Well, as we are going to learn today, the practice may be much more harmful than you could have anticipated. From violating the kids’ rights to privacy, to exposing them to pedophiles, it gets worse. Campus Bee caught up with Geraldine Mugumya, a Risk Analyst at the National Information Technology Authority – Uganda (NITA-U) on Sharenting and NITA-U’s cybersecurity campaign that is ongoing. Here are the excerpts;
QN: What is the Cybersecurity awareness campaign about?
The National Information Technology Authority (NITA) Uganda in July launched a Cyber Security Awareness Campaign dubbed “Be Safe Online” aiming at increasing public awareness and vigilance on cyber threats. The campaign as per our knowledge will run throughout the year — educating the public on cyber crimes to best protect themselves while using the internet.
QN: Who is a Sharent?
This is a term that describes parents that over share by constantly posting online photos, updates, videos and stories of their children on social media platforms. Though we don’t have deeper statistics in Uganda, we can learn from other countries such as a study (University of Florida) that revealed that 92% of very young children have an online presence. The following shows the nature of information shared from the study:
- When children appear in Facebook photos, 45.2% of the posts also mention the child’s first name, and 6.2% reference the child’s date of birth, allowing all viewers to establish the exact age of the child
- On Instagram, 63% of parents reference their child’s first name in at least one photo in their stream, 27% of parents reference their child’s date of birth, and 19% share both pieces of information
In essence, Sharents are actually without knowing determining their children’s’ digital footprint.
At the back of our minds, parents need to be mindful that content shared over the internet cannot be retrieved and there is not control on how that information will be used.
This quote from Stacey Steinberg (author of study) puts this into context – ‘These parents act as gatekeepers of their children’s personal information and as narrators of their children’s personal stories. This dual role of parents in their children’s online identify gives children little protection as their online identify evolves. A conflict of interest exists as children might one day resent the disclosures made years earlier by their parents.’
We also know that most children as they grow feel embarrassed or anxious about the pictures posted of them earlier in their lives!
QN: What’s the downside for parents sharing and posting pictures of their children?
- This affects children’s right to privacy later on when they are grown up
- This can provide quite a good amount of information for a hacker profiling a family for social engineering targeting your close friends and relatives
- More scarier is the issue that innocent photos of children posted online can be harvested by pedophiles and re-posted on pedophile image sharing sites
QN: How can parents/ sharents avoid this from happening?
Well, its down to one aspect. Parents should try as much as possible to avoid posting pictures of their children online! If the really must, perhaps only family and close friends should be able to see them.
QN: How can one keep up with the cybersecurity awareness campaign?
We have put in place a centralized website www.besafeonline.ug —that is a central knowledge hub for anyone seeking information and best practices on cybersecurity. In addition, you can follow updates via #besafeonlineug. Lastly, we will be running cybersecurity tips on radio, print and social media through the campaign period