It’s common for parents to post videos and pictures of their children as a way of sharing memorable moments. But is it really safe to share photos of your children online or on social media?
Data protection of children’s information requires a special level of caution. It is alarming that often parents are the ones who share this information freely without being fully aware of the impact it may have on their children’s privacy and their safety.
‘Sharenting is a term that has evolved to describe parents who share too much information about their children on social media,’ explains Michelle Dickens, CEO of TPN Credit Bureau.
‘It is estimated that by 2030, sharenting could account for up to seven million incidents of identity theft. While we are aware that children are targeted online, we don’t always realise that our own actions could be contributing to the problem.’
Schools and educational organisations are at the forefront of the shift in the level of caution required to protect children’s information. Both parents and teachers play a critical role in ensuring that schools are compliant with the Protection of Personal Information Act – this is why schools have recently implemented stricter control over the sharing of images and information on their platforms.
‘POPI, which became enforceable in July this year, does not stop parents and teachers from communicating but it does require all parties to know what they can and can’t share to avoid social media risk in the school environment.’
The POPI Act prohibits the distribution of personal information, including images of people, without their consent. That means that schools can no longer use photographs of learners in their marketing material or post photographs online without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian – and they need to be able to prove that consent.
‘Although POPI does not require this consent to be in writing, it is a good idea to get written consent if you need to provide that evidence at a later stage.’
If schools plan to use photographs of learners on their website, Facebook or Instagram, she adds, they need to specifically ask parents or guardians to consent to the images being used or risk being in contravention of POPI.
‘A good rule of thumb is to treat all information as confidential and before you share anything, think about the implications and the potential for future harm.’
Michelle shares four crucial guidelines to ensure children are using the internet safely.
- Set all social media platforms, both for parents and children, to private mode.
- Where possible, disable location services as criminals use this information to target children’s physical whereabouts to find out where they go to school, their age and their names. In particular, don’t allow access to public Wi-Fi services as this could compromise private and financial information.
- Ask children for their consent before posting any photographs or private information on the internet. It’s very important that children are educated about what they can and can’t post and are empowered to take responsibility. They need to understand the implications of posting unauthorised information on social media platforms, as well as the rules around posting photographs of themselves.
- Know and understand the platforms your children use. Sexual predators use social media platforms to exploit, compel, recruit and spread child sexual abuse material. Any suspected abuse should be reported to the police and child protection services immediately.