Part of every journey into parenthood involves becoming the protector of our children. This job has become more difficult since our parents’ time because of a little thing called social media.
Social media is awesome because we no longer need to confine our genius insights to shoeboxes. We can share our lives with hundreds or thousands of people within seconds. Hooray!
But then comes the idea of keeping ourselves – and more importantly our kids – safe on the internet.
The Surprising Math Behind Who Sees Our Photos Online
I’ve always thought that I had a pretty good handle on internet safety. I keep my Facebook and Instagram profiles private and I’m extra careful on public platforms like my blog and my Twitter. My goal was basically to minimize the number of eyes on my life.
But then I began to consider this numerically. (I was a Math major in college, after all.) Let me paint a picture here for you of what I mean:
Say I share a photo on Facebook of my son in a pumpkin suit for Halloween. The photo is now visible to my 500 Facebook friends, who I know pretty well (okay, aside from a few random people I met at parties or classmates from high school to whom I no longer speak).
My cousin Jane sees the photo and, mid-audible-squeals, shares it on her own timeline, with the caption “OMG look at my cousin’s baby! Isn’t he just the sweetest?!” The photo is now visible to Jane’s 500 friends as well, who have all confirmed that my son is, indeed, the sweetest.
Now we are at 1000 viewers.
Jane and I have 57 mutual friends., but I’ve never even met the remaining 443 of her connections. So now, out of the 1000 people who can see my son in a pumpkin suit, I know only 557 of them.
Take that one step further and account for a few (I’m not going to be too paranoid here) incidentals, like people showing their friends, looking over each others’ shoulders in line at the bank, getting their phones stolen, or leaving themselves logged into their Facebooks in their crowded dorm rooms, and all of a sudden I’ve never even heard of nearly half of the people who have seen my photo. And that’s just from one family share.
But my son looks effing adorable in this fictional pumpkin suit so I’m looking at closer to two or three shares, plus a few family members tagging themselves in the photo so it appears on their timelines.
Strangers here and strangers there.
I’ve lost count.
This is when I start to panic a little bit.
My rule for internet safety has basically been to remain in control of the numbers. But obviously, when I really consider things, I know that it only takes one creepy person looking at my kid for me to feel like I want the photo I put out there back.
I want it back on my desktop; I want it back in my hands; I want it back in my shoebox.
A recent breach of my own security measures left me wanting to get serious about internet safety when it came to my kids. Because the truth was that, especially as a writer, I had always wanted to open my life up to others. I struggled a lot with sharing things on the internet because, while on the one hand I wanted to keep my personal things safe, I also really wanted to use the internet in a positive way: to make new connections and share ideas with a lot of people at once.
“It’s so unfair!” I would shout to my husband as I removed several cute baby photos from my blog posts. Hurumph.
Then I was inspired by a post made by one of the bloggers I have been following, a very cool mother/traveler/videographer named Hailey Devine. (Check it out here, if you’re interested, but be warned that it’s not for the faint of heart.)
I wanted to establish better rules for my internet life.
So I talked to my friends at Parent Co., Justin Martin, Edward Shepard, and Sara Goldstein, about what their internet rules are and how they work for them.
Justin mentioned a time a few years back when he learned that his Facebook posts were being viewed by people he wished couldn’t see them. He quickly mastered the Facebook privacy policies and was able to feel more comfortable about posting. Recently, he devised a system for social media sharing that involves using Twitter for mostly work-related things or to get news, while he sticks to Facebook for family-related posts.
That way, he focuses on the security of just one platform when it comes to his kids.
Edward admitted that, like me, he has worried about his kid-based photos, videos, and other media being viewed by people he didn’t know. He said he tries to limit posting those images to social media in general, only sharing on Facebook once or twice a month with “Friends only.” But he adds, “think of all the likes I’m missing out on!” He gets me.
Sara is a photographer and thus loves sharing her art with others. She explained to me that her standards for photography are quite high, which basically means that she posts images that are generally pleasing to the masses instead of more private or personal ones. That, in and of itself, keeps her from sharing things she will regret later. She did, however, detail an internet scare that she experienced a while back, involving a photo she posted somehow ending up on tumblr, and then on someone else’s public Instagram. Thankfully she was able to communicate with those who posted it on Instagram and convince them to take it down, but, as she explains, “it still knocked the wind out of me for a second. It was a wake-up call that anything you put on the internet can end up in the hands of anyone.”
All three of my friends at Parent Co. said that, when it came to sharing those photos and videos that were dearest to their hearts, they really had to take the matter into their own hands (quite literally). It’s no surprise that they all chose to use the program they developed, Notabli, as their main method for maintaining internet safety. The app allows you to handpick friends and family who you would like to see your photos. It acknowledges the fact that some photos and videos (and quotes, notes, and audio clips) are more cherished when shared with a close-knit group than even with one’s hefty Facebook friends list. Plus, the app has tons of storage and backup benefits, which I encourage readers to learn about here.
The folks at Parent Co. offered me many solutions to my internet woes, but there are certainly more out there yet to be explored.
Why not take a second today to consider your rules for internet safety?
What are they – or what do you think they should be? How they are working for you? Ask other parents about theirs as well and share what you learn with others.
Let’s help each other tweak our internet systems for the better,because we all have the same goal in mind: protecting our kids.