I see it every day – or at least every day I'm on Facebook or other social media sites. I'm talking about pictures of children – they're everywhere.
Often, these images are tagged with their names – or their identities are mentioned somewhere in the status updates or descriptions. The location isn't hidden terribly well either. I'm sure you've noticed it too. Plenty of us share pictures of our kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews and offer out the same information I just described above.
Now, I can't fault anyone for wanting to share feelings of pride and joy over their little ones. If I had kids, I'd probably want to do the same thing. But since I don't, I suppose I'm in a position to see things a little more objectively. So with this in mind, I thought I'd offer a perspective in an effort to encourage everyone to think critically about what we share online.
First of all when it comes to our list of friends and followers on social media, do any of us know everyone? Even if we did, can we reasonably say we know everything about them? How they think? What they're capable of?
The reason I ask is because in a world where children are taught to not speak to strangers, if we're sharing pictures of our little ones – complete with their names, physical locations, interests, hobbies, siblings, other friends and school – our followers are no longer 'strangers' to these kids.
And when it comes to social media, especially places like Facebook – when you 'like' or comment on a picture, there really is no telling who else sees it, regardless of your privacy settings.
I don't know everyone on my friends' list. Some of these people are fellow bloggers, while others are former coworkers and people I knew in high school. However, I don't know all of them personally. I'm an adult, though, so that's a different story (although I can't be too careful either).
When I see kids' pictures on my newsfeed, I think something to the effect of, "Oh, how cool. Little Billy has such a great smile and looks so much like his Mommy."
But I refuse to 'like' it or tell them how cute I think he is because I have no idea who else will see it. I don't want to draw any attention to these kids, even if they do.
When I was growing up, the Adam Walsh story was huge. It changed the way we view children. Suddenly, it became clear that you couldn't be too careful when it came to their safety. And it's only gotten worse since then.
Nowadays, it's common to share personal information about children that makes it easy for anyone to know who they are, where they live and everything else about them. This includes those strangers you don't want them to associate with. I don't say this to scare anyone. I just want to remind everyone that what we share is seen by others – some of whom we may not want to have our information, even if we did accept their friend request.
So what should we do?
Everyone should be mindful of the personal information we share online, especially regarding our children. Instead of posting to social media, set something up on a shared website where loved ones can exchange and share images of the kids. I know how tough that might be since we're all used to defaulting to social media, but it's worth giving it a shot.
I'd love it if we lived in a world where we didn't have to think about things like this, but unfortunately, we don't. So, for that reason I'll never like your kid's pictures. And it isn't because I don't care.
It's because I do.
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