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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.
Images On The Web
Digital cameras were just the beginning: now, millions of kids have cellphones
take pictures whenever, wherever, of whatever. Many of those cellphones
will even take
digital video. Web sites ranging from MySpace
to YouTube make it easy as pie to post
those images and videos on the Web. What's more, these days many kids have
access to "Webcam"-equipped computers that can reveal what they're doing
in front of the
computer right now.
Do your kids have the judgment to post and display only appropriate visual images?
many kids don't. That can lead to major problems, both immediately - as others forward
images that shouldn't be shared - and later, as college admission
offices and employers
discover those images and pigeonhole your child as irresponsible, immature, or
What to do about it? First, set the ground rules with your kids.
The "Grandma Rule"
Start with the "grandma rule": don't put anything on the
Internet you wouldn't want your
grandma to see.
These days, that's not just an abstract or theoretical suggestion!
Millions of grandmas and grandpas are regular Internet users. They know perfectly well how to use Google - and they do. Your child's grandparents very well could see
those images from spring break, or that party they weren't supposed to attend, or that wild train trip home
from the city. If your kids aren't worried about some hiring interview in the year 2020, they
may very well be worried about what grandma would say - and they should be!
To be even more specific, we suggest setting these rules for your kids:
When other kids post discomforting images of your child
- Never email or IM your picture to someone you don't know: they may not
be who they say they are
- Never open a picture a stranger has sent you by email or IM (and strangers
include people you've met online but don't know in person)
- Never post sexually provocative pictures
- Don't use webcams without parental supervision. When using them, always
know what's in their field of vision, and always turn them off and close their
lenses when you're finished
- Never post pictures of anyone else without their permission
Which, of course, raises the point: your child isn't the only one who might
post images of
them. Other kids might. That's where it can get tricky, because you don't
have as much
control over their images as you might hope.
Ask your child if anyone's posted a picture of them on the Internet that
uncomfortable with; use Google's Image Search feature to see if there are
pictures on the
Internet tagged with your child's name. If you find something you don't
you can raise the issue with the parents of the child who posted it. In other
cases, you can
have the site's owners remove it - or at least remove the identification
that it's your child.
To complain about a photo of your child on MySpace, click Contact MySpace and
Reporting Abuse. Facebook won't remove
photos unless they're pornographic or
copyrighted, but your child can remove the tag from the photo that identifies
someone keeps posting discomforting photos of your child, your child can remove
as a "friend": once that happens, they can no longer tag photos with
your child's name.
Don't you do it, either
Finally, there's one other person who might post pictures of your children
be online. You. Parents have been known to innocently post pictures of
their own kids in
various "cute" states of undress. On sites like Flickr,
they've taken the precaution of
marking those pictures as private: available only for viewing by close family
But such settings aren't always foolproof; one family reportedly found that
its kids' pictures had been viewed by strangers over 1,000 times. So, for you,
one more rule: don't
post pictures you wouldn't want a stranger to see.