What could be more natural than posting one’s newborn or child’s performance at school online? The purpose of social media is to share, and it seems normal for parents to engage in “sharenting” about their children.
As with many things in the digital age, the seemingly innocuous can contain hidden threats. In The Wall Street Journal, Chelsea Jarvie and Karen Renaud detail just how dangerous it is for children to be on internet posts at all. Everything from your child’s name, to his or her pictures, birthdays, accomplishments, teachers, and pets can be retrieved and cataloged in a database.
It starts before one’s child is even born.
Parents commonly will post “images of their scans, with due dates included, to social-media sites. Both parents are usually tagged. The follow-up is a birth announcement, which normally includes the child’s full name, date of birth, time of birth, weight, and hospital. Milestones are next: the child’s first steps, first holiday, first pet, first word, best friend, favorite food.”
This information is valuable material for hackers and scammers because such facts are most commonly used in online security questions. The first act of a hacker into your child’s online accounts is to scroll their Facebook history and find their first pet or birthday.
If this sounds far-fetched to you, Barclays Bank, a major UK bank, warned that by 2030, 7.4 million identity theft cases could occur every year as a result of sharing information online. And during pandemic lockdowns, this trend only got worse.
PPSA would add that hackers and commercial exploitation are not the only dangers children with compromised passwords will face as they get older. All their information is subject to being scraped by data brokers, who routinely sell our most personal information in bulk to government law enforcement and intelligence agencies. A little indiscretion at infancy by parents could lead to that offspring being spied upon by the government in adulthood.
One eye-popping statistic showed that “by their fifth birthday, the average child will have around 1,500 photos of themselves shared online. This means that by the age of 13, when children are allowed to use social-media sites themselves, there could already be almost 4,000 photos depicting them online.” With AI technology rapidly advancing, this treasure trove of photos online could be used to disastrous effect. Deep fakes — images, videos, GIFs, sounds, or voices manipulated to look or sound like someone else — of your child could be manufactured with ease and used against them.
As Jarvie and Renaud write, “this information is a ticking time bomb, and likely to result in an explosion of embarrassment and angst for our children as they grow up, as well as exposing them to identity theft.” Parents should consider that posting about their children’s lives could lead to disastrous consequences years later.