It is a debate that shows no signs of abating: should you share personal photos and information on social media? Why or why not?
Our lives are more documented than ever. Social media has given us the ability to let friends (and friends of friends, and sometimes friends of friends of friends) know what town we live in, where we go on vacation, our birthdays and age, and more.
Most of these shared details are accompanied by photographs of our neighbourhoods, our families, and the children in our lives. Once posted, these images enter the public domain.
Today’s younger generations are the first to have their entire lives documented on social media. It is yet-to-be-seen what the long-term effect of this might be. Some children, as they become young adults, are asking parents to remove images from social media sites. And there are many adults coming out on the side of abstaining from posting photos of children altogether, citing both security and privacy concerns.
Are these concerns well founded? Some say they are. From the larger issues around location-based tagging to a teenager’s personal view that a toddler-in-the-bath photograph is just plain embarrassing, many of these issues could be mitigated by not allowing such information to enter the public domain in the first place.
But what of the benefits of social media? Isn’t its raison d’etre to facilitate keeping in touch with loved ones by sharing photos and memories with friends and family both near and far?
“The urge to upload and share these special moments is completely understandable,” says Birju Pujara, founder of Skwibble, a closed networking platform whereby the users can create customised social groups to share stories and photographs with family and friends while retaining rights to the images. “However, the problem with social media is that, even if you delete your account, the network still has the right to use your images.”
A guide to posting on social media
However, it’s not unreasonable that people still want to share photos and information, despite the risks. “I think people post these moments and memories because they are special to them,” said Birju. “However, at the moment, the tools for parents to do this safely whilst still retaining the social interactions are not that widely available.”
So, how can families protect their photos and data?
Before you post or share any information, Birju suggests you first consider the following:
-Would you want your child’s photos to be used or downloaded by someone you did not intend to have them?
While there are many examples of how photos might be exploited in the current and near future, Birju also suggests considering your child’s day-to-day life.
“Imagine for a moment a child in their early teens in the school playground and some other children being able to find pictures and stories from their childhood online,” he says.
-Have you considered the wider security risks?
“Making any personal information easily available online makes you more vulnerable to identity fraud, hacking, and more,” he says.
Perhaps post birthday photos a week after the event to avoid making your exact date of birth and year known. Share vacation snaps once you’ve returned, thereby not broadcasting to the wider world that your home is currently unoccupied.
-Would you share this info with colleagues and acquaintances?
In building Skwibble, Birju asked parents how many people they would comfortably share updates of their child with. The answer was approximately 20 – a far cry from the average 400-500 ‘friends’ the typical user has on Facebook. In addition, consider that potential and current employers often check Facebook pages. “There is so much we wouldn’t tell people we meet and work with, yet we are very quick to put this information on social media, “ says Birju.
-Are you sharing in the right place?
Many social media sites come with advanced security settings, yet many do not enable them or even know how to do so.
“Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are wonderful tools, but consider something smaller and more customized for the sharing of personal photos and information,” he says. “Only post on social media sites that allow closed groups, or even better, on a closed networking site like Skwibble, which has been created for the sharing of memories, photos and videos for customized social groups only.”
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