Media Release

McAfee survey finds parents ignore own concerns of sharing images of their children online

(Image from Pixabay)

Device-to-cloud cybersecurity company McAfee announced recently results from its latest survey, The Age of Consent, and found 30 percent of parents post a photo or video of their child at least once a day on their social media accounts with 12 percent posting four or more times per day — showing the extent of child exposure on the web.

Most parents identified the following concerns associated with sharing images online including pedophilia (49 percent), stalking (48 percent), kidnapping (45 percent) and cyberbullying (31 percent), but many (58 percent) don’t even consider if their child would consent to their image being posted online. In fact, 22 percent of parents think their child is too young to decide whether their image should be shared online, and another 19 percent think it should always be left up to the parent to decide.

However, despite voicing these worries this concern doesn’t translate into action, as many admit to still including children’s personal information and private details in online images. For example, half of the parents surveyed admit that they have or would share a photo of their child in their school uniform despite the risk of giving away personal information. Yet, it’s comforting to see the majority (70 percent) of parents are only sharing photos of children on private social media accounts. This is certainly a good first step, but there is much more needed to be done to ensure parents are protecting their children’s identity.

Identity theft

“Posting photos and videos on social media is a great way for parents to share what’s going on in their lives with loved ones,” said Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at McAfee. “However, the survey reveals parents are not giving enough consideration to what they post online and how it could harm their children. If shared images get into the wrong hands, they can be used to gather information like birth dates, home address, school, or even the child’s full name which could lead to cyberbullying or even identity theft.”

While it’s clear that parents are worried about physical risks to their children’s safety, results indicate less concern about the emotional risks. Only 23 percent of parents are concerned that posting an image of their child online could lead to worry or anxiety, and only 30 percent considered that their child could be embarrassed by the image. Emotional side effects should not be discounted. According to a survey from ComRes, more than one in four children between 10 and 12 years old feel embarrassed, anxious or worried when their parents post pictures of them online. Interestingly, it appears moms consider the embarrassing side effect more than dads, with 45 percent of dads assuming their children will get over any embarrassing content compared to just 14 percent of moms.

“As a parent, I know how important it is to immortalize those big moments like the first day of school with pictures,” said Andrea Smith, tech expert. “The desire to share those precious pictures with friends and family via social channels is high, but parents should consider the emotional and security risks of posting on their children’s behalf. In addition to sometimes embarrassing their children, parents need to know that it can also lead to big problems for the future. I caution parents to think twice about what they share publicly.”

Parental tips for safe sharing

  • Watch out for geo-tagging. Many social networks will tag a user’s location when a photo is uploaded. Parents should ensure this feature is turned off to avoid disclosing their location. This is especially important when posting photos away from home.
  • Lockdown privacy settings. Parents should only share photos and other social media posts with their intended audience. Services like Facebook and Instagram have features that allow posts to be shared only with confirmed connections, but everything posted on a social network should be treated as if it’s public.
  • Set ground rules with friends, family, and children. Be clear with friends and family about guidelines when posting images. These rules can help avoid unwanted situations where a family member has shared photos without explicit permission. Don’t forget that these ground rules should also apply to parents to protect the children in the images from embarrassment, anxiety or even cyberbullying.
  • Take control of your personal information. As the number of reported data breaches continue to rise, so too does the possibility of identity theft. For children who are too young for a credit card, parents should freeze their credit to avoid any unauthorized use.

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