Children’s Commissioner Report Outlines Children Are ‘Datified’ From Birth

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The ‘Who Knows What about Me?’ report from the children’s commissioner for England has outlined that today’s children are the first to be “datafied” from birth and internet giants and toy-makers need to be more transparent about the data they are collecting on children. It is not just up to the businesses that facilitate the digital-first world; the pressure should also be on parents as it is a joint responsibility to manage and protect our children’s digital identities and let them start their digital journey on a clean slate.

A recent McAfee study, Age of Consent, also discovered that:

  • Every year, parents share approximately 1.3 billion images of their children on social mediain the UK. Worryingly, nearly a third (30%) of these are shared on public social media pages that can be accessed by strangers (approx. 390 million images a year in the UK alone)
  • Yet over half (51%) of parents are concerned about paedophiles accessing these imagesand over a third (35%) worry about kidnapping despite the overexposure of children on social media
  • UK parents are indicating less concern about the emotional risks to children, as over a quarter (27%) have considered that their child may find an image they upload embarrassing, but went ahead and uploaded it to social media regardless
  • 72% of parents don’t even ask their child if they would like their picture to be shared online. In fact, 40% of parents do not believe their child has the right to consent to their image being shared online – putting their identity at severe risk without their permission

Please see below for John’s comment and some tips for parents to manage their children’s digital identity safely.

John Fokker, Head of Cyber Investigations at McAfee:

“This report from the Children’s Commissioner is long overdue as children’s data needs to be taken more seriously immediately. However, it isn’t just internet giants and toy makers that need to make changes – parents equally need to think about what they share about their children and being a contribution to the problem. We recently discovered that UK parents share approximately 1.3 billion images of their children on social media a year, and a third on public social media pages that can be accessed by strangers.

“The ‘digital identity’ many parents create without their children’s consent can also lead to problems in the long run. If images get into the wrong hands, they can be used to gather personal information like full names, birth dates, school and location or to paint a picture of who they are, which could have serious repercussions. There is also the concern that decisions about job applications or higher education could become increasingly based on what the internet says about someone, rather than their ability. I caution parents to think twice about what they share publicly before it is too late.”

Parental tips for safe sharing:

  • Think and then post. Always think twice before uploading pictures of your child. Will it prove risky or embarrassing for the child later in life? If yes, or in doubt, postpone sharing
  • Disable geo-tagging.Many social networks will tag a user’s location when a photo is uploaded. Parents should ensure this feature is turned off to avoid disclosing their location. This is especially important when posting photos away from home
  • Maximise privacy settings on social media.Parents should only share photos and other social media posts with their intended audience. Everything posted on a social network should be treated as if it’s public. Deleted never means disappeared forever
  • Set ground rules with friends, family and children. Be clear with friends and family about guidelines when posting images. These rules can help avoid awkward situations where a family member has shared photos without explicit permission
  • Ask for consent.Requesting a child’s consent before you post pics is essential but be prepared for them to say no. We should always consider their digital reputation and bright futures
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