Parents who share photographs of their children online and on social media are putting their kids in danger, says a former member of the police force and child safety expert.
Susan McLean, author of the book Sex, Texts and Selfies (Penguin $29.99), said most people were unaware of the dangers posed by exposing children to anonymous people online who are “looking at all sorts of photos of children”.
“Parents assume that as long as they don’t share photographs of their children in the bath then they will be safe from online predators, but that’s absolutely wrong,” Ms Mclean told The New Daily.
“If parents are ok with their children’s photos ending up on some pervert’s computer, being fantasised over or shared with other sexual deviants as they discuss what they’d like to do to the child – then fine. But if not, then they should stop posting photos online,” she said.
Ms McLean said Instagram was particularly popular with sexual offenders as it was a photo-based app.
“Parents may think setting their profile to private will keep their images safe, but that’s ludicrous. When other people comment or like the images they become accessible to almost anyone.”
Brent Hedley, the eSmart Schools Program coordinator with the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, agreed that parents who shared photographs of their children on social media put them at risk from predators.
“Many people lack awareness about the danger of sharing children’s photos, and how doing so increases their vulnerability to risky behaviour,” he said.
Predators could easily identify children and determine their location from school uniforms or sports’ team logos, he said.
“There’s even an app that will do it for them.”
Ms McLean said metadata embedded in online images also enabled others to find out exactly where a photo had been taken, allowing them to pinpoint a child’s whereabouts.
Online searching ground
Dr Katrina Lines, the executive director of programs at Act for Kids, which works to prevent child abuse, agrees that social media has become a searching ground for sexual predators.
“Paedophiles these days are very adept at using electronic means of accessing and sharing child pornography and many search for victims online,” she said.
Victorian parenting expert Kathy Walker from Early Life Foundations, said sharing family photos with the world was definitely risky behaviour.
“It’s indicative of the narcissistic culture we live in that we feel the need to share every moment of our personal lives, but doing so makes our children more vulnerable,” she said.
She described the actions of Sydney mother, and marketer, Roxy Jacenko, who has turned her toddler into a social media commodity, as “exploitation”.
A photo posted by Pixie Curtis (@pixiecurtis) on
Jacenko posts regular images of three-year-old Pixie Curtis dressed in designer fashion for which her mother earns product placement fees.
Pixie already has 91,000 followers on Instagram keen to see images of her puckering up for the camera, sipping drinks poolside or posing in her swimsuit.
“Many of these images are highly sexualised,” Ms McLean said, “the only reason the mother is doing this is because she’s making truckloads of money off her kid.
“This sort of behaviour just makes life easier for paedophiles.”