For typical kids, 1,000 photos online before age 5


Nominet infographic. Click for more.
Nominet infographic. Click for more.

Parents today are dooming their children to an over-exposed digital life by posting nearly 1,000 photos of kids before age 5, a new British study suggests. An advocacy group named The Parent Zone polled 2,000 U.K. and found they post 973 photos before their child’s fifth birthday. Even worse: many parents admit posting photos of other family’s kids without asking permission.

It seems reasonable that a similar study in the U.S. would produce similar results.

The overexposure gets worse as children age, with parents of those under the age of 16 sharing on average 208 images of their children online a year, the survey found. Results were published this week on British advocacy site

Despite 70% of parents claiming their main gadget for taking photos was a smartphone, fewer than half (49%) were aware that location data showing where photos were taken could be stored.

“We all love to share those precious moments in our children’s lives with friends and family and sites like Facebook have made it easier than ever. While the web helps relatives to keep in touch and participate in our everyday lives, it also has the potential to lead to accidental oversharing,” said Russell Haworth, CEO, Nominet, which operates KnowTheNet. “It’s important to ensure that the correct privacy settings are in place to safeguard our personal information and content. Parents are creating a large digital footprint for their child from a young age, and the right settings are important if you want to stay in control.”

Facebook dominates the way in which parents are sharing images of their children with 53% of parents stating that they have uploaded images of their kids to the social networking site. Instagram followed with 14%, while more than one in ten (12%) parents upload pictures of their kids to Twitter.  A quarter (25%) confess to never asking the permission of the people in photos before posting them and over half (53%) have uploaded a photo of a child that wasn’t their own.

Plenty of adults aren’t asking kids their opinions about having their lives shared widely online.

“Today’s youth is the first generation to grow up with social networks as an integral part of everyday life so it’s important we stop and think about how they might feel about content that’s shared now when they’re older,” said Vicki Shotbolt, CEO and founder of The Parent Zone. “No one would want a potential employer browsing through their baby photos, so making sure privacy settings are applied properly is always a good idea.”

It’s tricky to live off the social media grid.  Sites like Facebook are incredibly useful and easy tools for helping distant relatives and friends keep up with kids’ milestones.  But it’s hard to say what the costs and risks are from posting innocent-looking pictures online. In a powerful essay on Slate, Amy Web explained the reasons she decided to keep her child entirely off the grid. It thoughtfully explores all the issues: marketing, facial recognition, predators, child porn.

If you choose to post, keep in mind that’s it’s basically impossible to delete data from the Internet.  Even if your Facebook count is deleted, photos you posted there could be copied and live on elsewhere indefinitely.  Be extremely careful with privacy settings to limit the audience, and check the setting regularly, as they can change.

About Bob Sullivan 1403 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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