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First Day of School Photos and Social Media: Ripe Pickings for Child Pornography

We often hear about teens oversharing content, however when it comes to parenting, experts agree, it is time parents put on the brakes before they post pictures of their children and other private family gatherings.
08/25/2014 03:17pm ET | Updated October 25, 2014
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Twenty-five years ago I sent my first child to kindergarten. Yes, it was a big day. We took photos, we made copies of them and gave them to our relatives. It was exciting for our family. We were all so proud.

Today I realized that on social media sites I now experience seeing thousands of photos of other people's children on their first day of school. I am confident they were taken with the same level of love and excitement I had 25 years ago.

The difference is whether I would have shared them with hundreds of friends that, let's face it, many I only know virtually -- and their friends that I really don't know at all, and their friends that I really don't know period (are you getting the drift?) -- it almost sounds like a venereal disease literally gone viral.

On my Facebook news feed alone I saw hundreds of little children starting their first day of school, and they were adorable. Yes, I am friends with many of these people and enjoy being able to see photos of their families -- but honestly, I don't know their children or their grandchild, or their nieces and nephews, etc. I am not someone that will lift their pictures (or manipulate them) and sell them to the highest bidder (and yes, this does happen). However, these are things that you need to be aware of.

Why does this matter?

Did you know child pornography is "one of the fastest growing businesses online, and the content is becoming much worse"?

According to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as of June 2014, the CyberTipline has received more than 2.5 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation since it was launched in 1998 and ICAC Task Forces noted a more than 1,000 percent increase in complaints of child sex trafficking.

Child pornography and online predators are major concerns today. Twenty-five years ago we were only concerned with stranger danger in our parks and on the streets. Today, cyberspace has widened this gap exponentially.

Online predators, sex offenders, people obsessed with child porn (and it doesn't have to be only naked children), as well as creepy crawlers that troll cyberspace for kiddy pictures are having a field day with first day of school pictures all over social media.

It is not only about stranger danger. Posting innocent photos can potentially end up on child porn sites -- where your child's face could possibly show up without you knowing about it.

We often hear about teens oversharing content, however when it comes to parenting, experts agree, it is time parents put on the brakes before they post pictures of their children and other private family gatherings.

I asked a few of these experts for their comments on this topic:

David Benford, International renowned cybercrimes expert for Blackstage Forensics Limited said, "As I have to deal with forensic investigation of pedophile cases, I try to explain to people that these guys are not just interested in photos of unclothed children. They take anything that they can and manage to get some sort of kick from it. Don't share your kids on online social media..."

Tito De Morais, International cyber expert added, "I usually tell parents and teens that capturing those intimate moments on film (photo or video) is the first step to make them public. An account can get hacked, a device can be stolen, a mistake can happen (sending to someone else), a device can require technical intervention for repair, someone can inadvertently gain access to the device ... there are so many possibilities that can go wrong that the best advice one can give is: don't record your intimacy."

Chris Duque, Former Honolulu Police Detective and cybercrimes expert recommended, "Parents should never post the name of their child's school, or 'check-in' if they are taking the pictures. Also avoid taking pictures in front of the school signs." Duque also suggests that parents frequently check their comments to remove any if their friends mention the school name. Another tip he gave was that they don't have to leave the posts up forever.

Many of these young and innocent kids that started school probably don't have social media profiles -- yet. So it's their parents are "sharenting" pictures, and as minors, they don't have a say in whether their face goes viral. Digital Citizen's Alliance questions, "Is posting videos or photos of your children a violation of their right to privacy?"

In Sweden, many parents refrain from posting photos of their children until they are old enough to consent to the pictures being shared with others. This cultural difference in respecting children's privacy is one we might want to learn from. As your child grows and matures, consider how they might feel about the photos and videos from their younger years being shared with total strangers. How would you have felt if your intimate childhood moments could have been shared when you were growing up?

What do you think?

Shouldn't we give our kids a chance at privacy?

Takeaway tips:

• Secure your privacy settings.
• Create selective lists of friends and relatives to share your photos with. Keep in mind, friends today could be frenemies tomorrow.
• We survived 25 years ago without sharing the pictures with the world, maybe consider only sharing them with family again.
• Parents, think before sharenting.
• Lock it up! Use your privacy settings; that's what they're for.