Most social media users are happy to see the likes and positive comments of their children’s photos shared on public platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, among others, but rarely think about what happens after or where the shared photos end up.
Many forget that once a post button is pressed, the photo is given away; something clearly stated in the terms and conditions of the network that people hardly have a look at.
Today, “sharenting” is a term used to describe countless parents sharing details about their children’s lives online, specifically, pictures of what they are doing, eating and wearing.
Sadly, the web never forgets and every photo leaves a digital footprint. Any photo posted on social media is kept and can be found even long after the user forgot it.
Maurice Haesen Kajangwe, the in-charge of Cyber Security and senior engineer at Ministry of ICT, notes that, “You cannot know when somebody else uses it and their intention.”
“Putting someone’s privacy to the public is undesirable, particularly a child’s private life. There is, therefore, need to warn parents to preserve their children’s information,” he says.
Kajangwe says social platforms such as Facebook are in ‘the cloud’, the reason one cannot tell where the photo is exactly, even after deleting it.
He says with GPS technology on camera devices, it is easy to find where a photo was taken from, which can comprise the security of the child whose photo is shared.
“Only if you save it on your own server is it safe; but if you send it via web, it is gone. You cannot tell what those who will access it will use it for,” warns Kajangwe.
When a child grows up, they might not like the way their young life was exposed, and maybe they won’t like their look as others may tease them, he adds.
Experts say publishing pictures of children can cause long-term problems including image rights, affect their adult lives and produce family conflicts.
This has already being witnessed through people’s online photos being used for wicked purposes, such as cyber-crime.
Bernadette Uwera, a regular Facebook consumer in her early 20s, says one needs to be careful with social media networks.
“You can make your child a superstar, yet they may not like it. A child may not want to be seen everywhere. It’s better to publish one’s own photo. I would personally not love it to see someone having published my childhood photos. It would be better if I posted it myself and endured the consequences,” she says.
Francois Bisengimana, the director of Adoption, Protection and Promotion of Child Rights at National Commission for Children, says a child’s privacy is protected by the law as any other human being is.
“It is worth to note that child rights are human rights. If international and domestic laws do guarantee privacy for every person, the same applies to children,” he says.
Bisengimana adds that where children can express themselves, parents are advised to seek their consent before sharing their photos on social media platforms.
He says it is also important to note that sharing pictures of children should only be done in the best interest of the child, not as a means of having fun.
“This is because this might be a source of online attacks that can bring unexpected hazards to children and their families,” cautions Bisengimana.
To lighten the consequences, parents should at least change their privacy settings in order to limit the audiences, and turn off location sharing as well, experts say.
According to Internet World Stats, Rwanda had 3,724,678 Internet users (30.6 per cent of the population), and 490,000 Facebook users, as of June 2017.
To tackle the issue, some governments have warned their citizens to stop posting their children’s photos on social networks to protect the privacy of minors and their image.
In France, parents could face jail time and a fine of up to $67,000 if they post pictures of their children without their consent.