selfiesAs of last year, the word “selfie” is officially a part of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, and it seems like people from all walks of life are taking and posting pictures of themselves online for the world to see. Whether you think selfies are ridiculous or not, this type of picture has become a standard of social media, and it probably won’t be going away anytime soon. If you’re the parent of a child under the age of 18, you probably know all too well about selfies, since kids are adept at taking — and posting — them. But should you allow your kids to take and post pictures of themselves online?

Photos don’t have to be public to present privacy issues

The recent data breach at kids’ tech toy company VTech has parents around the world realizing that it’s not just Facebook and Snapchat that they have to worry about when it comes to protecting their kids’ privacy. VTech’s gadgets are often designed to allow children and parents to take and save pictures that can be uploaded to their servers. Because these files are taken and shared within what feels like a safe space limited to just other parent and child users, it can be easy to forget about potential dangers they present. However, as the VTech breach shows, many of the companies producing tech toys and other gadgets that connect to the Internet are lacking when it comes to security — and hackers are just as interested in targeting them as they are healthcare companies and big box retail stores.

Talk to your kids about the dangers of posting selfies

Social media is no longer just about sharing your thoughts via text posts. These days, it’s all about sharing what you see — including the face staring back at you in the mirror. Teens, tweens and even some younger children are using social media to connect with their friends as well as share their world with strangers everywhere. You may have taught them not to be an open book to strangers they meet in person, but what about strangers they encounter online? Kids aren’t likely to realize that what they post could make them a target for everything from harassment to identity theft, so it’s up to parents and other adults in their lives to discuss the importance of safe sharing with them — as well as monitor their activity to ensure they’re following along with the rules you’ve set up.

Teaching kids about the dangers that selfies pose is something that should begin as early as their first Internet-connected device. Some parents might not think kids need to learn about the dangers of sharing online until they have computer or smartphone access, but an upswing in the popularity of Internet-connected tech toys means the earlier you get the conversation going, the better. Some of the potential dangers that selfies or other photos shared on social media pose include revealing information about where you live or go to school, what you look like, information about your home (such as what kind of guard dog you have or if you’ve got lots of expensive electronics in the house) and even your exact location.

Monitor their social media and Internet usage

You can’t always trust your children to adhere to the rules you lay down, but fortunately you can try to keep them from getting into trouble with careful monitoring of what they do online. If your child has access to a computer, smartphone or other device with Internet access, you might want to consider using parental control software to help track their actions. Many Internet security software suites also include helpful parental control features as well as tools for social media monitoring. Consider sitting down together once a week or once a month to look over their social media accounts, and discuss any posts that could potentially put them in danger.

Watch what kinds of posts you make as well

Parents tend to focus on the actions of their children, but kids tend to learn by example. If you are an avid user of social media and frequently post selfies and/or pictures of your family, then chances are your children are going to get the idea that it’s okay to share freely on their own. Be aware of what information you shouldn’t be sharing, and take care to strengthen your own social media privacy settings. Many parents don’t think twice before showing off pictures of their children and families online, but the same dangers that apply to children also apply to adults (and when you’re posting pictures of your kids, you could be putting them at risk).

The occasional selfie share every once in a while probably isn’t going to hurt, but in the long run, it’s probably a wise idea to limit how many — and what kind of — pictures your child snaps and shares online. To learn more about protecting you and your family’s privacy, follow our blog on the subject.