Keeping with my style, let’s get right to it. Regardless of your child’s Facebook privacy settings, profile and timeline cover photos are public, and that cannot be changed. However, you have the choice of what picture you use, and you want to choose wisely as your child’s reputation, self-esteem or life could depend on it.
Unfortunately there are people who are trolling the Internet looking for profile pictures to create fake Facebook Pages, use on pornography sites and to prey on kids. Below are a few “real life” stories of the misuse of profile photos.
- Someone created a fake Facebook page using a 15-year old girl’s profile picture and identifying information. The page contained insults about her appearance and sexually explicit references.
- A 19-year old Pennsylvania man was arrested and charged with using the Facebook photos of four teenage girls to create pornography, which he re-posted online.
- A 31-year old man from Georgia, was arrested and charged with multiple sex crimes for posing as a teenage girl on Facebook and “sexting” middle school-aged boys. The man created a fake Facebook page and portrayed himself as a 16-year old girl using her photo.
- The FBI is investigating pictures of teen girls that were taken from Facebook and placed on a pornographic website. The victim’s ages range from 14-17 years old
Profile pictures are open to the world making it fair game. If your is currently using real photos as your profile picture, it’s not too late to change them. If you decided to keep the real photos, at least have the conversation about the implications…personally, I don’t think it’s worth it.
Practical Tips to Keep Kids Safe Online:
1. Do not use “real photos” for your profile. For maximum privacy do not allow your child to use real photographs of themselves. I recommend that parents encourage children to use clip art, items of interest such as baseball, volleyball, cartoons, etc. Children can still show their personality without sharing their photos, they may simply need suggestions.
2. Set proper privacy settings. Outside of profile photos your child can share real photos by ensuring that their privacy settings are set properly. I recommend that teens allow “friends” only, not friends of friends.
3. Don’t use your child’s picture as your profile. Parents, I know you want to show the world your beautiful children, but you can potentially put them in danger by using their picture for your profile. Once again, profile pictures are public – open for the world to see and download.
4. Set the rules. Have a conversation with your child about what’s acceptable to post, set expectations, consequences and most importantly stick to it.