Doesn’t have to be “Papa’s,” of course. Please replace that with whichever guardianship title suits you. I just like alliteration.
Also, I’m not a lawyer. I don’t even play one on the radio. So this ain’t legal advice (I threw in the “ain’t” there to solidify my point); it’s a balance of Googling and Papa paranoia.
There are many points of privacy we don’t have much control over without encasing our littles in bubble wrap or traveling with an entourage of tall, sunglasses-wearing security to fend off the paparazzi.
For instance, in Canada, it is legal for anyone to take a photo of you, or your kids, without your permission, if you’re out in public, or otherwise viewable from a public vantage point (if they’re not on private property), where you have no reasonable expectation of privacy.
It gets detail-y and law-y when it comes to commercial use, so I’m not venturing into that swamp.
What I am here to talk about is the protection of our kids’ personal privacy which we, as parents, have control over.
Everybody loves a baby photo or 20. It’s great to see children grow up through Facebook albums or Instagram accounts created to document their upbringing, but at some point, it’ll be time to think about the kid’s own autonomy, and what they might want when it comes to their image online.
The fact is, we all cultivate our online personas, whether a little or a lot. For digital natives growing into their own, having a backlog of images and milestones documented on a parent’s social media account and associated with their name might not be the coolest thing, dude.
I don’t know if the kids still say “dude.”
So, here are some ideas from Paranoid Papa Bud to balance showing your pride and joy off to the world…against them docking your coolness points later in life because of that photo of their naked butt in the bathtub when they were six.
Put yourself in their shoes. Many of us should be considered very lucky that our younger-days antics weren’t captured frame-by-frame for the entire world to see. Curate what you post, both for your audience (cull that series of face-in-birthday-cake shots down to one, rather than posting four similar ones) and your kids’ future rep.
I also don’t know if the kids are still concerned with their “rep.” I’m sure they are, but perhaps it’s called something different in 2020, like “Klout.”
Consider a nickname, or just use their initials. Especially if your real first and last name is on your social media accounts, maybe you address your little by the first initial of their first name. Many folks go by their first and middle names. Or, perhaps, a (hopefully non-embarrassing) nickname. Heck, I gave my daughter both a nickname (Kit Kat) and a hashtag (#PapaKidlet). Anything to slow down the search engines.
Ask. As they become aware of the internet and its direct connection to them—have them Google themselves or, better yet, have them Google you—check with them before posting photos or video of them. As their parent/guardian, you’re the one most allowed to post their likeness online, but like many other aspects of your relationship, this is a matter of respect. Show them that courtesy by asking, respect their decisions, and keep the conversation open and normalized.
Keep track of your media. There’s lots of internet out there, and it can be easy to lose track of where photos or video of your child have been uploaded. But, if you’re careful to keep it to, say, a couple or three main places, it’ll be easier to go back and pull any down which they may later find mortifying and request you remove. You do have a password manager to keep track of all those different passwords, right?
Watch identifiers. Scrutinize content pre-posting for anything which may make it easier to figure out your child’s city/school/home address. I’ve seen plenty of albums which include both a photo of the kid in a school wear, and another in front of their home with a visible street number. Doesn’t take much Google-Fu from there to find that house.
Engage in disinformation. That nickname you may be using? Ask them to consider using one of their own. Those cutsey screen names we used to use may be cringe-worthy today (ROOTBEERPOUNDER69420@ICQ.COM), but they also made it tougher to find us online.
Of course, as parents/guardians, we should be a part of any forms your child fills out asking for their name, address, phone number, date of birth, etc. But, unless it’s vital that the information be accurate (e.g., something for a health agency, government, etc.), consider keeping it to just their initials, using your work address, using your mobile or 000-000-0000 as a phone number, shifting their date of birth by a month or six, etc. Just keep it consistent in case some recall of the information is needed as a security challenge later.
It’s all about small deterrents to make OSINT (Open Source INTelligence, or using publicly-available records to gather information) on your family that much more difficult. While these ideas may not stop the most determined goofball from Googling you and yours, it should add enough noise to the signal to discourage the majority of ’em.