Think that selfies are something new? Think again. Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh are just some of the renowned painters who ’took’ their self-portraits hundreds of years ago. They didn’t need the technology of smart devices and social networks.
There was another difference, more important today than ever before. The painters were very careful when choosing the details for their pictures: foreground, background, clothing – everything that ended up in the artwork.
Today’s kids, as well as their parents, often post selfies on social networks without a second thought. No thorough investigation, just a click and it goes live - for everyone to see. As a result, many shared images unintentionally reveal sensitive information, such as a person’s whereabouts or valuable belongings in the background.
While those are mainly concerns for adults, such behaviour can also put kids in danger. Just think about it for a minute: a child giving away their location can have serious consequences, especially if a parent or guardian isn’t nearby.
There are also digital threats lurking behind spontaneous selfies – such as cyberbullying. A child posting a selfie in an embarrassing pose or situation can easily become a target for cyberbullies all around the world. And for children and teenagers, being the target of such public mockery can be devastating.
What can parents do to help their children avoid these selfie pitfalls?
First of all, they need to become good role models. Even adults should pay attention to what they post. Younger children often imitate their parents, which offers a great opportunity to teach them good “selfie-hygiene”.
Every year, more people die taking pictures of themselves than get killed by sharks. It’s therefore crucial for a parent to explain to their kids that no photo is worth the risk of harm. Children should also always be aware of their surroundings when taking a picture or playing a game on their device – look around not just down.
Parents should teach their children that anything posted on the internet stays there forever. No, there is no miraculous “delete” button or almighty authority that can remove such posts, so it’s better to abstain than regret later.
If your children are just starting to learn how to use social media and their smart device, be there for them. Help them protect their privacy and show them how to treat every picture like Sherlock Holmes would – looking for the smallest sensitive details that shouldn’t be there or could be harmful. It’s good to adopt a non-confrontational approach when talking to your child about the issue.
Use a reliable parental control app to keep an eye on what your child is doing online. Guide them through their internet experience, explain the risks, and help them stay away from trouble. Share your day-to-day stories of good and bad practice with selfies among all family members. Experiences online are as important as any other experiences. As they get older, be ready for an open dialogue - which can be more effective than just “putting your foot down”.
A good rule of thumb for everything posted online: If you don’t want your mom or dad to see it, you probably shouldn’t post it.