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Kids and social media

Image from Shutterstock

In the final installment of our series about online safety, FAIRLADY online editor Jennifer Searle explores the tricky topic of your children and social media

Earlier this year, local mom blogger and author Tertia Albertyn found that pictures of her children were used in an internet hoax that requested donations for a child’s cancer treatment. This is the second time someone used pictures of her children claiming that they were their own.

The ease with which images of your children can be lifted from your online profile is worrying. What do you do to protect yourself and your children on social media? Paul Jacobson of Web●Tech●Law says the only way you can try to prevent this from happening is not to publicly publish photos of your children, and to use a service that allows you to restrict your content instead. Sarietha Engelbrecht of Naspers Labs adds, ‘I advise people not to put pictures of their children on social platforms, particularly as profile pictures on Facebook, or to create profiles for their children, because they are generally searchable. And again, make sure your privacy settings are correct. Only share your pictures with people you know and trust.’

If your friends don’t want pictures of their children published on social media platforms, then abide by their wishes. Engelbrecht adds that if you see that someone you don’t know has published pictures of your child (as Tertia did) and you would like them to be removed, contact the administrative staff of the social media platform and ask them to remove the content.

Besides the privacy issue, Jacobson advises that you find the content licence conditions and read them very carefully. ‘This is important because it affects what the platform can do with the content you publish. Your content could be owned by another company when you publish it – they could use your family pictures in advertising, for example. Content licensing is probably the biggest issue on social media. The Twitpic licence, which is very broad, allows them to sell the content you post on their platform. But despite this, people continue to use the platform. Instagram, Google Drive and Pinterest have also been involved in ownership controversies.’

What do you do when your children want their own online profiles? ‘I’m concerned because Facebook is talking about getting younger kids on these services,’ says Jacobson. ‘The image that comes to mind is big warnings being printed on cigarette packs, but nothing being done to prevent sales to children, as if you’ve done your bit with the warning. However, if you are between the ages of 13 and 18, Facebook restricts friend requests and your profile. But because of the complexity of social media platforms, parents need to get involved, to understand how they work and to guide their kids.’

Tammy Bortz of Werksmans Attorneys suggests that the education around this needs to be taken as seriously as sex education and the effect of drugs. ‘Children and teenagers don’t understand the repercussions of what they publish on social media platforms. Bullying online can be regarded as assault. This is a serious offence which could lead to criminal charges,’ she says. ‘The reality is, just saying “don’t do it” to your children is naïve – it’s not enough. You need to educate them. Children today don’t understand the concept of privacy – they publish everything online. Parents need to be very involved and understand how all the mediums work.’

‘If you demonise social media, it’ll fall on deaf ears because children and teens want to be where their friends are,’ says Dave Duarte of Ogilvy Marketing Academy. He suggests that you treat each platform like getting a driver’s licence. ‘They need to prove that they are responsible. So let them go on but then you need to be friends with them so that they can prove that they can manage a public profile. It’s also a good idea to have conversations with them about what it means to have information and statements in the public eye. This will hopefully prevent them from posting nasty comments about one another.’


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