Almost 92% of two-year-olds already have a online presence, and about one-third first appear within their first 24 hours of life. Now, pediatricians have warned that what parents share with others about their children in today’s digital age presents new and unanticipated risks.
Researchers from the University of Florida said pediatricians should educate parents of the negatives regarding creating their children’s digital footprints.
It’s typical for adults to mention a child’s name and birthdate in birth announcements and other posts on sites like Facebook and Instagram, for instance, which puts kids at risk of identity theft and digital kidnapping — when someone lifts images of another person’s kids and portrays them as their own. Some parents publish real-time information about their children’s whereabouts, risking their safety. “The amount of information placed in the digital universe about our children in just a few short years is staggering,” said professor Bahareh Keith.
Social media offers many benefits to families, Keith said, including giving parents a voice as they struggle through difficult child-rearing experiences, building community and celebrating the joys of their lives. However, Stacey Steinberg, a law professor in Florida, cautioned that information shared can be stolen or repeatedly re-shared, without the parents’ knowledge, potentially ending in the hands of paedophiles. Steinberg described an incident of a blogger who posted photos of her young twins while they were potty training. “She later learnt that strangers accessed the photos, downloaded them, altered them and shared them on a website used by pedophiles,” Steinberg said.