August 2010 Archives

If you have kids (or grandkids), you're probably quite proud of them. That's great; it means you're a caring parent. But please do not use your child's picture as your Facebook profile photo -- or your profile picture anywhere else on the Internet, either. Here are several reasons why:

  • Safety. Don't make it easier for predators to identify your kids by putting their pictures on the Internet. It's ridiculously easy to figure out who's related to whom just by using a few simple Internet searches. Once someone knows your name, and knows that you have kids, it takes no more than a couple of steps for them to figure out your kids' names. And if a predator knows your name, your kid's name, and what your kid looks like, then it's remarkably easy for that predator to target your child at school, at soccer practice, or on the playground -- and then use their knowledge of your family to concoct a potentially convincing story: "Hey, [child's name], my name's [fake name], and I'm a friend of your mommy and daddy. [Your name] had some car trouble, and they told me to take you home." If the predator has followed your Twitter posts, he might be able to add convincing details about something you did last weekend. If he's been following your LinkedIn profile, he could add lots of information about where you work and false details about how long you've been "working" together. Most children aren't wired to be skeptical enough for the information that's readily available today.
Frankly, that reason alone should be enough to stop you in your tracks. Remember: Your Facebook profile photo is as public as public can be -- it shows up in any Google or Bing search of your name, and the searcher doesn't have to do anything to prove they know you. But if the serious safety risk isn't enough, there are two other very good reasons not to use your child's photo as your profile picture:

  • Confusion. If someone is looking for your profile online, they want to confirm that it's you that they've found. Casual acquaintances, old friends from school, and other people who are looking for you (which is what a profile picture is for) probably don't know what your kids look like. They might be able to locate a resemblance of some sort, but don't make their lives more difficult. Just put up a picture of yourself.
  • Identity in the Internet age. The Internet has delivered the age of permanent memory. And as tools like Google Image Search improve, words (like your name) and pictures are being linked permanently in the "memory" of the Internet. Linking your child's photo to your name means that, should something happen to you (good or bad), it can become associated with your child's identity. If, for instance, you were to be accused of a crime, or involved in an accident, newspapers and television stations are going to search online for a picture of you, because that's what their readers and viewers want to see. If you've caused your name to be linked to your child's picture, they're going to get false results -- but how would they know? Mixing the wrong name with the child's picture can cause confusion and possibly even damage the child's reputation. It's going to be hard enough in the future for people born in the Google age to keep their reputations intact, with tools like cell-phone cameras available to document every childhood indiscretion. Don't make it harder for kids to protect their reputations by intermixing their identities with your own -- who knows what indiscretions of our own from the pre-Internet era are going to find their way online, on top of the ones we add today?
It's a simple request: Don't put your child's picture up under your name. It's a free and easy practice, and it's more important than you as a proud parent might intuitively think.

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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