Social media has become such a prevalent part of our lives. According to WeAreSocial.net’s Digital, Social & Mobile in 2015 Report, 40% of Filipinos are active in social media networks. With the country’s population of 100.8 million, this translates to around 40 million Filipinos who actively spend an average of 4.3 hours daily on social media.
Unfortunately, this drastic rise in social media use in recent years did not come with any instruction manual or even a guide on DOs and DON'Ts. Although social media has allowed many Filipinos to connect with family and friends online, it has also ushered the practice of oversharing - which means offering or revealing large amount of details that are personal and/or inappropriate.
There shouldn’t be a problem if you have absolute control over everything you share on social media, but this isn’t exactly the case. Different social media networks have their own terms and policies when it comes to security and how they manage the data you put on their servers.
While social media has provided many parents a convenient venue to easily share photos, videos, and information about their children to their family and friends, it also puts all of these out there for others’ consumption. This practice of posting photos and videos, from those of your babies to your family’s favorite weekend restaurant, has acquired a term on its own – sharenting – and it may pose more danger and risk than you thought.
Here are some tips to help you use social media without compromising your child and your family’s safety and security.
1. Check your privacy settings. Before you post anything on your social media account, you must take the time to learn and check its security policies and your account’s privacy settings. Who will be able to see your posts? Will your posts include other information such as your location? Some social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook may reveal detailed information such as where you live or where you are located if the GPS of your mobile phone or tablet is turned on. Adjust your privacy settings to ensure that your posts contain only the information you want to share with the people you want to share it with.
2. Make use of lists. According to the same WeAreSocial.net report, Facebook is the top social media network used by Filipinos. Unfortunately, some Facebook users approve friend requests from almost anyone they are remotely connected to – anyone from a preschool classmate who now lives across the globe to a favourite vendor in the wet market.
Em Alcantara, 31 years old and a mother of one child aged 4, shares her experience: “Back in 2011, someone from my church’s music ministry created a Facebook account bearing my name with a profile photo of me with my baby, so everyone else in the ministry thought that the account was mine. The account sent some messages to members of the ministry, apparently badmouthing one of the conductors. I only found out about it when these members asked me about it. When I searched FB for my name I found out that there are two other dubious accounts. In the end, I learned that the one who created the account is someone who disliked me.” Because of her experience, she suggests setting your profile to private or restricting visibility of posts to certain people.
On Facebook, you can do this by creating lists of your friends and then setting separate privacy settings for each list. You can create a list that depends on your connection - close friends, relatives, co-workers, and schoolmates – or you can create a list that depends on a ‘security level’ you want to assign to a friend – all posts, not-too-personal posts, and public posts.
There are various ways you can set up your Facebook lists so that you can control who sees what. As Em’s experience shows, social media makes it very easy for someone else to steal your online identity especially if you don’t protect and secure what you post on your accounts.
3. Limit the information you share. Even if you have set your preferred privacy settings, it does not mean that you should post away to your heart’s content. These privacy settings you have set are not forever – Facebook has made numerous changes to its privacy settings over the years and although there are more options for customized settings now, default privacy settings have changed over time.
In other words, you don’t know when Facebook or another social media platform would suddenly change their privacy settings. To be safe, discretion should always be observed when posting something online.
Frances Jules Amper Sales, also known as the blogger Topaz Mommy, loves sharing photos of her kids online but learned that it is not a very smart thing to do. She narrates her experience, “One time, my family and I were at Bonifacio High Street. My husband and I decided to go inside one store and let our toddler play on the grass outside with the yaya.
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While shopping, I looked up to check on my son and saw a complete stranger holding him! By the time I reached them, the person has left already. I asked the yaya who the person is and according to our yaya, the woman was looking for me, “Hi Vito! Asan si Frances?” so our yaya assumed that the person is our friend or relative.”
Frances later found out that the person is a reader of her blog. Nonetheless, Frances never leaves her sons alone with the yayas in public anymore knowing that she has put so much information about her family online.
4. Watch what others post on your behalf. Most social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, allow other people to post on your behalf, either by tagging you or posting directly on your timeline. Sometimes, your images might be posted without your knowledge at all.
April Ricafort-Custodio, 35 years old and mom to 2 kids, also shared her experience, “A Facebook group used our prenup photo as their profile photo... I assumed they got the photo from our photographer’s Facebook page.”
Although most instances like this are harmless, you never know how and where your photos are actually being used. Photos of your baby and your family might be used to promote a service or product without you knowing about it!
Exercise some control over what others post on your behalf. In Facebook, you can do this by limiting how others tag you or by removing others’ ability to post on your Timeline.
5. Treat social media as a public place. A safe mindset to take is to treat all social media networks as public places. Parents expectedly become more vigilant and alert when they go out in public with their kids and the same approach can be used on social media. The Internet has become a preying ground for some unscrupulous characters and you would not want these people stumbling on your kids’ photos online. Sometimes, seemingly safe images might still be used in various ways that will violate you and your child. Once someone gets access to photos you’ve uploaded, you lose control over what that person can do with it.