By Larry Magid
Facebook is testing a feature that lets parents create a “Scrapbook” of pictures of their children — including kids who are much too young to have their own Facebook account,
The Scrapbook feature enables you to add a child of any age as a family member and then tag images with that child’s name. Even though a child has to be at least 13 years old to create their own Facebook account, it’s very common for parents to post pictures of young children. I’ve seen plenty of preteens, toddlers, newborns and even ultrasound images of unborn children. Scrapbook doesn’t change that, but makes it easier to keep those pictures in one place with the option to share them.
You can only create a Scrapbook for your own child and, by default, only the parent can view the scrapbook. As before, who can view each individual image depends on the on the privacy setting for that image. You can allow your partner (presumably the child’s other parent) to add pictures to the scrapbook and you have the option of sharing the scrapbook with other individuals or groups, all your Facebook friends or even the general public.
As before, if you tag your child in a photo that someone else posts, that person has the ability to make that picture public, but now parents receive a notification so they can remove the tag or ask the person who posted it to take down the picture or limit who can see it. Facebook won’t automatically transfer the child’s photos to their own account if they join the service upon turning 13, but plans to empower the teen to make their own decisions on if and how to display those photos.
I have no quarrel with Scrapbook and I can certainly understand why proud parents would want to share pictures of their darling children. But the sage advice to “think before you post” applies to parents as well as kids.
I know a mom who has publicly posted pictures of her preschool-age daughter in various stages of undress. There is nothing sordid about these images, but if it were my daughter, I’d refrain from posting them and I would limit who could see any pictures of my young children.
I also think it’s important to think about the child’s privacy rights. As a parent, it’s up to you to decide who can view pictures of a young child but — at some point between birth and becoming a teenager or young adult — the child may have an opinion about such images and could ask you to stop posting pictures of them or even take down (or limit the audience) of pictures posted when they were younger. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to protect your child’s “digital footprint” when they are very young and help them protect their own digital identity as they get older.
I’m not very worried about a stranger physically harming a child whose picture they see on Facebook. The odds of that happening are extremely low, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center. But I still wouldn’t want people I don’t know — and some that I do know — looking at pictures of my young kids. Images that may seem innocent to you and people close to you could be interpreted differently, and perhaps inappropriately, by some people.
Also, too much information about a child could lead to identity theft if you include the child’s date of birth, full name, location and other identifying information. Children are vulnerable for identity theft because they have squeaky-clean credit records and ID thieves know that kids and parents may not discover the fraud for many years, often not until the child applies for a college loan or a first credit card.
There is also the real risk of marketers getting hold of their information. That will probably happen anyway, but there’s something to be said for letting children decide, at an appropriate age, how public they want to be, rather than parents making that decision for them when they’re very young.
It’s also a very good idea to get permission before posting pictures of other people’s kids, even if your child is in the picture. And respecting the privacy of your child and other kids is also being a good role model. Parents who want their kids to protect their privacy and the privacy of others should lead by example.
Scrapbook defaults to “only me”
Facebook’s new Scrapbook feature does encourage parents to limit who can see their kids by defaulting to “only me.” You can, however, add the child’s other parent or share with a wider audience such as extended family, all your Facebook friends, your friends except acquaintances, a custom group or — if you really want to — the public. Regardless whether you use Facebook’s new Scrapbook feature, it’s important to be aware of privacy settings if you post images or videos of your children on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat or any other social-media service.
So, mom and dad, it’s great to maintain a “scrapbook” about your kid, but be aware of who gets to see it. Unlike childhood, digital images can last forever.
Disclosure: Larry Magid is CEO of ConnectSafely.org, a nonprofit organization that receives contributions from Facebook and other companies.