Parents fear that cyber stalking may be linked to human trafficking.
MBOMBELA – Few things are as adorable as a young child’s first-day-of-school photograph. It is a key moment in every person’s life that traditionally does not go undocumented. This is even more so in the digital era. Social-media platforms like Facebook allow parents to share images – and even albums – of their children, digitally documenting moments for eternity.
The privileges of online-publication abilities come with serious responsibilities, especially for parents who are legally required to protect their children.
In previous decades, few would frown upon a photo of two-year-old Eddie in the bathtub. An image of an adorable child swimming in his birthday suit would not have raised many eyebrows. The Sexual Offences Act of 2007, however, stipulates that any image of a naked minor is child pornography. He who shares such an image online is distributing child pornography.
Parents should take cognisance of the fact that online predators may use social-media sites to gather information on prospective victims. The website ipredator.com defines these predators as “adult online users who seek to exploit vulnerable children or adolescents for sexual or other abusive purposes”. They typically use information and communications technology and the Internet to locate, target and victimise minors.
In addition to sexual exploitation, a new evil called digital kidnapping has reared its ugly head. This happens when someone steals annother person’s identity using online platforms. The latter can also be used by individuals with ill intentions to confirm your date of birth, your child’s school, name and location.
Armed with this information, a prospective kidnapper or human trafficker can more easily get hold of his or her victim.
Parents fear that human traffickers may use social-media platforms to identify their minor victims. Although no data exists to corroborate this allegation, it is well documented that South Africa is a hub for human traffickers. Regardless, this serves as motivation for parents to be extra vigilant while using social-media platforms.
- How does a parent react to the threats inherent to social media?
One option is to delete images of your children from Facebook and never share any again. This may seem impractical to many as social media has become a standard digital-scrapbooking tool.
A more practical approach entails careful consideration prior to posting. Upload photos that will not reveal too much information about your child or yourself. Remove birthdays, contact numbers and addresses from your profiles.
Upgrade your privacy settings. Social-media sites offer users the opportunity to limit who sees their posts -they can be public, reserved for your eyes only or made available to only a specific selection of people. With a narrower audience comes a lesser risk of damage.
Do not share your location. By checking in somewhere, you are informing a large online audience of your – and your children’s – whereabouts. This move may be unwise in an era where online predators may be keeping an eye on you.
Remember that online content lives forever. If you do not want an image to be eternally accessible, do not upload it.