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Experts Say Parents Oversharing On Social Media Can Have Future Negative Effects For Kids

A new report shows that the average parent will post over a thousand pictures of their kids online long before their children are old enough to have a social medial account of their own.

By the time our kids reach eighteen years old they will, on average, have made over seventy thousand posts on social media, in forums and game chats.

Experts have recently warned that all of this online data could have a detrimental affect on our kids lives in the future.

The children’s commissioner of England, Anne Longfield OBE, who’s office published the new report said:

“We simply do not know what the consequences of all this information about our children will be.”

From social media and online activity at home and extending to everywhere we go, data is being harvested and stored, pretty much from birth onward. The unknown repercussions of such a large digital footprint, which may actually begin even before a child is born with parents-to-be posting ultrasounds online, are as yet unknown.

Ultrasound picture
Credit: mylissa/Wikimedia Commons/Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The report, Who Knows What About Me? (PDF link) raises concerns about the data children and their parents are giving away, it also warns that this collection of data could have an effect on future endevours such as the universities people are accepted into, the outcome of job applications, the ability to get a mortgage or eligibility for any kind of credit.

Server room

Another concern are apps aimed at children.

Matthew Johnson is director of education for the Canadian company MediaSmarts which creates literacy and numeracy applications. He recently referred to a study which discovered that many of the default settings on free apps actually violate Unites States laws on privacy.

We have huge amounts of data being collected via social media, search engines, internet connected smart speakers, toys and even baby monitors. Then there’s GPS tracking our every move outside of our homes.

kids tablet device

The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal shows that just by us liking a post to do with fast food or sharing a post from a news show, over time, this kind of data can be used to build up amazingly accurate consumer profiles.

These snippets of information such as likes, shares and searches add to our profiles which can then be used to target us with precisely tailored advertising and even has the potential to manipulate political beliefs or decisions.

Matthew says:

“Because most people have a fairly poor understanding of how the data economy works, parents don’t generally have the information they need to genuinely consent to the terms of service, and of course, the longer data brokers have to build a profile of you, the more influence it will have throughout your life.”

small child playing with phone

So what can we do to minimise the amount of data collected on us and our kids?

It may be of some relief to know that we don’t need to completely cut out our internet use, throw our devices into the nearest lake and move to the mountains.

We can make sure our kids make informed choices about the information they are giving out. Parents should keep an eye on kids online activities and check out settings on the installed apps. Does a weather app or a simple game need access to the camera and microphone? Why does the calculator app need to access to our contacts?

Johnson goes on to say:

“we need to learn more about how we pay for services with our data, how that data is used to profile and advertise to us, and how our lives are increasingly being shaped both online and offline by algorithms, and with younger children, who might not be old enough to make an informed choice, or even be the ones posting online, it’s of equal importance that parents are fully aware of the repercussions of their actions.”

A Canadian study conducted in 2018 found that while roughly four in 10 Canadian parents post photos of their children once a month or more, one quarter say they never post photos of their children and one-third say they hardly ever do.

Perhaps a bit less sharing of our everyday lives could go some way to reducing our children’s, and our own, future online footprint.

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