Social Media and Photos of Our Children

New horror film: Woman was never able to find gainful employment – her parents posted her baby photos on Facebook!

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | September 26, 2013

Last year a news report surfaced about pedophiles who surf Facebook’s pages looking for children’s photos.

In the past three or four years I have come to know many new and older parents, relatives and acquaintances, who post the most adorable pictures of their children on Facebook. No matter the age of our children, we love to see their pictures. I love seeing how the children change from season to season: the outfits, the haircuts, during activities, playing sports, candid shots, their meals, etc. We post these photos because we love our families – not because we wish them any harm.

Until last year I enjoyed the photos without a care in the world – that’s because I am, or rather was, naive and trusting. What is the problem, you might ask. Last year a news report surfaced about pedophiles who surf Facebook’s pages looking for children’s photos. Another news item told of a retired gentleman who happened upon his wife’s image used in an advertisement without their knowledge or permission.

In the meantime, Facebook’s Terms of Service changes as quickly as I change my underwear and I doubt we are made privy to each change and what exactly that may mean for us as users. It is time we all take a closer look at how we labeled people we allow on our Facebook page and what we allow them to see of our posts. By default the setting is to public or to let anyone on Facebook see photos – including someone simply browsing for photos of children.

Last year Brianna, a close relative, shared several photos of her beautiful daughter, Brooke, who was four years old. Brooke was enjoying playing dress-up like she had seen on the TV toddler contests with tiny outfits and a few scarves. There were several poses with coy looks over her shoulder, and then came the bathtub shots… I began imagining those leering pedophiles and sent a frantic private message to her mother. Brianna responded immediately by removing the photos and in time, according to Facebook’s Terms, the back-up copies that are in ‘cold storage’ should disappear as well.

Another problem is that once a photo is lifted from Facebook it can be edited and altered in a number of different ways. Think for a minute about the provocative little Brooke’s sweet girl image being edited onto a photo of a burly pervert – I shudder to think.

Lately there has been a stronger push to TAG faces and set LOCATIONS by Facebook. From the news pieces I have read, Facebook is getting ready with face recognition programs in order to link faces to other faces, to merchandise, to law enforcement entities, and who knows what else. Think of your computer screen being linked to the rest of the world as if it were a spider’s web and Zuckerberg sits in the middle with a great big grin. I guarantee you the an$werS are not far from that web.

Will the photos that parents posted online come back to haunt children when they are trying to build their careers? Will photos taken and posted by parents declare a child to be a bad choice for employment?

Another troubling piece of information I heard is that chat history is never truly deleted; we can delete it but it is archived. Why does this bother me? A friend was feeling down over a bad person in her life and I launched into a pretend murder plot, describing the demise and then disposing of the body. You and she know I would never do anything like that because I am a non-violent person, other people know me to have anger issues but in general, they have never seen me behave violently. What about law enforcement, government spies or a person with a grudge against me? Even Mother Teresa had enemies – Mr. Ramirez called me “Mother Teresa” but if he read my chat session I had with my friend, what would he think?

The scariest thing though, may be the impact our children’s photos may have on them five, ten or even twenty years in the future. Will the photos that parents posted online come back to haunt children when they are trying to build their careers? Will photos taken and posted by parents declare a child to be a bad choice for employment?

After beginning this blog over a year ago my daughters and I discussed those possibilities and I removed their names (and other people’s names) and substituted fake names with their knowledge. On Facebook, I have ‘photos’ but there is only one real face photo for my profile; the other real photos are of my dog and my hands holding scorpions and millipedes. All the other ‘photos’ are of free stock images used with the blog.

When you begin to think of all the possible ways you or your children could be unintentionally harmed by online threats, you may think twice about adding yet another photo – and then tagging it – and setting a location. I mean really, what are they going to do with all that information about you and your photographs?

This is the small print: I am not an authority on Facebook or all the nuances of social media but I am an over-protective mother with a wild imagination.

Did you ever think parenting would ever be this scary? Me neither.

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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