The world today is not as innocent as it was ten or twenty years ago. Social media sites such as personal blogs, Facebook and Instagram have given rise to crimes that were impossible to commit in the past. The endemic popularity of mobile phones has made sexting and the transmission of nude or semi-nude pictures a serious problem for teens and even preteens. Following are some things that parents can do to protect their children from the pain and discomfort of having their photos fall into the wrong hands. Teach children about Photo Protection Now!
Photo Protection: Teaching Children to Value Their Privacy
The most important thing that parents can teach their children about the internet is that there is no such thing as internet privacy. While the measures described below will help prevent personal photos from being misused, they will not offer full protection. Preteens and teens should know that it is impossible to keep online photos fully private. Furthermore, they should understand that once photos have been posted online, it is near impossible to delete them, therefore, they need to learn about photoprotection.
Naturally, there is no harm in posting certain photos online, if reasonable safety guidelines are followed. However, a young person should realize that there are serious consequences for posting certain types of photos online. For instance, an underage teenage boy who posts a semi-nude or nude picture of his underage girlfriend can end up having his name listed on the sex offender’s register for life.
Many employers and even educational institutions are now asking prospective employees to provide access to their personal Facebook accounts. Photos of drunken behaviour, crazy stunts or illegal activities will at best result in the loss of a good job opportunity or admission to a good college or university. In the worst case scenario, a young person could find him or herself in court, where the photos will be used by the prosecution as evidence of a crime.
This same point applies to sending pictures to friends via mobile phone. While such photos are not freely available online, they can be misused if a person falls out with a friend or lover and this person decides to get revenge. There have also been instances when mobile phones have been lost or stolen and the photos on them have been published online by an unscrupulous third party.
Teaching Children How to Use Social Media Settings to Protect Their Photo Protection
While Facebook was made to be an open source of information, it does have various privacy options that prevent near or total strangers from seeing one’s profile and pictures. Even parents who do not regularly use and/or are not familiar with Facebook can help their children learn how to properly adjust these settings so that only close friends and family members can see photos. Facebook has a helpful video tutorial that provides excellent information along these lines, as well as a privacy page with more good information.
Instagram also has a “Control Your Privacy” setting that allows users to choose who can and cannot see personal photos; other popular photo sharing sites have similar settings that give a young person control over his or her account for Photo Protection.
However, parents and young people alike should note that the default settings on nearly every social media account type allow for public viewing of all pictures. It should also be noted that trusted friends can and often do copy and re-upload images that may not have been meant for public viewing. Once again, young people should realize that photos posted online are never fully protected.
Photo Protection: Protecting a Personal Blog
Personal blogs are often used to not only share the latest news but also photos of people, events and places. While many photos posted on a blog are harmless, numerous young people use their blogs to post photos of crazy events, places and antics. It is essential to teach everyone about Photo Protection on personal blogs.
A potential employer, law enforcement official or anyone else who wants to find out more about any given person simply has to do an internet search for this person’s name. One’s blog will be the first thing to show and with it a large quantity of personal information and photos that most people would not feel comfortable sharing with a total stranger. Furthermore, any images on a blog can be found using Google Images, making it even easier for a person to find photographs of any given individual with minimal time and effort.
Thankfully, there are two ways in which a young person can protect his or her blog. The first method is to make the blog private. Blogging accounts such as Blogger and WordPress permit a user to block search engines from searching the blog and posting results online. The second method is to add a password to the blog so that only those who have the account password can get on the site. This method is naturally more secure than simply keeping a blog private, although it is naturally a hassle to have to manage an account password and give it to those who can be permitted to see the blog.
Photo Protection: Protecting Video Files
It is not hard to extract a photographic image from a video file. All a person has to do is download the video and then open it using Windows Live Movie Maker (available for free with Windows 7) or one of the many similar programs which can be downloaded for free from the internet.
While YouTube automatically makes video files available to the general public, the site does have privacy settings that enable a person to keep the video from appearing in search engine results. Using this setting can protect a young person from having less than complimentary images from the video being turned into photos that are then spread far and wide by unscrupulous individuals.
Photo Protection: Helping Children Define a Healthy “Comfort Level” and Maintain It
Facebook and other social media accounts stipulate that a young person has to be at least 13 years of age in order to have an account. While many people ignore this rule, parents should demand that their youngsters adhere to it, as younger children simply do not have the maturity to capably manage social media sites and the inherent dangers that come with having a Facebook, Twitter and/or similar account.
When a young person first opens an account, parents will want to sit with him or her and explain the consequences and dangers of posting the wrong images and videos on the internet. The child and parents should come up with clear guidelines on what sorts of images should and should not be posted.
A good rule of thumb is to ask a child if he or she would be comfortable showing any given image to the local sheriff, school principal or total stranger. If the answer is no, then the photo should not be posted online. It is also important to make it clear that a child should never, under any circumstance, take nude or semi-nude photos of him or herself or of anyone else, much less share them via the internet or mobile phone.
Teenagers will on occasion need help with keeping the above-mentioned agreement, which is why parents should keep tabs on what a youngster is doing online. This can be done by having the family computer kept in a public area of the home. Parents should also have full access to a child’s social media accounts.
Photo Protection: Explaining the Concept of Privacy to Friends
Unfortunately, not many young people are supportive of the idea of keeping private photos private. Such young people may take and share photos of a teenager that the teenager is not comfortable with. If such an instance is clearly bullying or online harassment, then parents should take immediate action. Young people guilty of cyberbullying can have their social media account shut down if a parent reports the offence to the social media administrator. If threats are made, these can be reported to local law enforcement officials.
At the same time, inappropriate photo sharing is not always done in malice. Many young people simply do not think twice about posting inappropriate or discomfiting photos on the internet. In such an instance, a young person will simply need to talk with the friend involved and kindly ask this friend to take the image down. While this does not ensure that the image will never be found again, it is the best possible means of damage control.
Parents should be very concerned about the photos that a young person is posting online or sending via mobile phone. Many teenagers do not clearly understand that the internet is by no means private and that the wrong images can affect one’s future educational and job opportunities. At the same time, parents cannot have full control over what a young person does, as devices such as smartphones and iPhones have made it possible for a young person to get online at any time of the day or night and bypass traditional control techniques such as internet filtering software.
Instead of attempting to control a young person’s online activities, parents should focus on teaching young people how to use the internet responsibly. There are numerous stories online of young people and even adults who have had their photos misused; have a young person read some of these accounts, go over the safety measures outlined above and then draw up clear guidelines that will protect video and photo files that a young person does choose to post on the net.