Digital Life

Parents warned of dangers in posting children's images online

Proud parents could be unwittingly putting their children at risk by posting images and information online which give away personal details such as where they go to school and which parks they frequent.

National Children's Commissioner Megan Mitchell urged parents to be cautious when posting cute baby photos or sharing their children's latest achievements.

Careful: Eugenie Pepper says her children would be more offended if she didn't post photos of them on social media sites.
Careful: Eugenie Pepper says her children would be more offended if she didn't post photos of them on social media sites. Photo: Peter Rae

''It has the potential to put them at risk,'' she said. ''People can potentially find out what school they go to, or track where they move about the community because you have locational settings on.

''We have to be careful when we put images out there in the ether because we really don't know what is happening to them, we don't know who is going to access them and we don't know what they're going to do with them.''

She cited an example of an Australian man who posted a picture of his naked toddler in the bath on Facebook, thinking it would only be seen by friends and family, only to discover 3000 strangers had clicked on and ''liked'' the image.

NSW Privacy Commissioner Dr Elizabeth Coombs also warned parents against oversharing, saying: ''The capability of technology requires us all to be far more conscious of what information we make available and the possible consequences to others including children.''

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A US study found two-thirds of parents posted pictures of their children online but a University of NSW research project into children's wellbeing has questioned whether information parents post about their child violates their privacy and could potentially become a ''dirt file'' in decades to come.

Dr Myra Hamilton, research fellow at the university's Social Policy Research Centre, said the issue of consent was particularly concerning for very young children.

''Toddlers and babies raise particularly salient issues because they are not in a position to give consent,'' she said.

''The research we have done with older children suggests that they would have an issue with intimate and funny photos and anecdotes being shared on Facebook in particular.''

Randwick mother Eugenie Pepper posts images of her children, Tommy, 6, and Chloe, 4, on YouTube, her personal Facebook page as well as the page of her childrenswear business.

''My kids would be more offended if I didn't post photos of them,'' she said. ''I feel as if I am compiling these great memories ... I don't know how they will feel about it when they're older but my gut is telling me that they're not going to care about it.''

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