What parents should know before posting on social media

'Nothing you do online is anonymous': Cyber investigator shares tips for parents

It’s common for parents to share photos and videos online of their kids’ milestones. So much so, there’s even a term for it: “sharenting.”

But parents also run a risk when they post their kids’ information on social media. And one cyber security expert says that just as kids are taught to stay safe on the internet, parents could also take steps to protect their family’s privacy.

“I wish I could just say don’t post pictures of your family on the internet, but I think we’re way past that point now,” cyber investigator Lizzie Cookson said. “So if you are going to be sharing family photos, kids’ photos, be really conscious.”

So many parents share information about their children that a 2010 survey found nearly 90 percent of kids in the United States have an online presence by the time they are two.

Even though it’s an easy and fun way to keep family and friends up to date, Cookson says parents should still be careful about what they post.

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“Just assume there’s some risk involved every time you share a new piece of information and just be a lot more cautious and filtering about the content you’re willing to share,” Cookson said. “I know everything is geared toward information sharing and convenience, but I find it’s better to err on the side caution and try not to give in to that pressure to be such a massive social media presence.”

Cookson suggests turning off and removing your geolocation tags, making sure your accounts are turned to private, and removing followers you don’t know or aren’t in contact with anymore.

And, above all else, try to avoid including the names of your kids’ schools, summer camps and after-school clubs — anything that can make it easier for someone to track their whereabouts, Cookson said.

Cookson acknowledges that sharing on social media is almost inevitable, but she says there are ways to stay more private.

“Social media is just so ubiquitous and sharing is so easy, so I don’t think we’re ever going to be in a time where we can encourage people or expect people to move backward,” Cookson said. “They need to just be really informed about every risk they’re taking.”

So how can parents stay informed?

Cookson said listening to internet and tech-related podcasts is a useful source.

“They’re not esoteric or hard to digest,” she said. “They do a really good job of spotlighting specific things on the internet and on apps and phones and computers that can teach you a sort of cautionary tale.”

Cookson also says it’s important not to exhaust yourself, but instead to be more mindful of your digital trail.

“I try to use an analogy of walking through sand or walking through snow,” she said. “You leave a huge footprint wherever you go in the snow. The internet is the same way. Every website you go to, every picture you look at, you leave a footprint there that tells someone else on the internet you were in this place.”

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