Taking photos or videos of your tot doing something cute or entertaining is a lot of fun. But what's even better is sharing the images and recordings on social media accounts like Instagram and Facebook.
There's nothing wrong with your friends and family enjoying your little one's antics, right? Besides, who knows? The photos and videos might end up making your cutie the next Internet sensation.
Everyone loves watching kids do and say funny things online. But the more shares and views these files receive, the greater the danger.
Brett Lee, an Internet safety expert and speaker, and founder of the Australian-based INESS (Internet Education and Safety Services), cautions: "Up till not too long ago, it was easy for us to deal with these images and videos because our options for distribution were limited and we had little consideration to make when it came to who could view them.
"We had control, not only over who could view the material, but also what could be done with it. But technology - in particular, social media - has changed all of that."
Whether you like it or not, you're connected to everybody who uses the Internet - that's roughly three billion people, according to Brett. And unfortunately, not all of them share your ethics and values.
"The Internet is a playground for paedophiles, in that it offers them perceived anonymity, access to potential victims and material, and a way to disconnect themselves," he says.
But it's not just the sexual predators or "groomers" you should be worried about.
There are also the identity thieves, the image and video manipulators who seek to embarrass their victims, and still more individuals with sinister intentions that we may have never even thought of.
"Of course, this is not to say that we should stop documenting our kids' lives in this way," Brett adds.
"But with the Internet the way it is, we as parents have to take extra precautions to keep our kids - and ourselves - safe. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to posting and sharing images and videos of your children online, only considerations that lead to well-informed decisions.
"All in all, the Internet is a fun, safe and productive place for our kids and us, and the reality is that most people have a positive online experience. We must, however, always remain aware, especially when sharing our children's identities online."
Learn how you can better protect yourself and your young one in these six common situations.
1. Your location is visible to everyone
There are certainly benefits of making your location visible to others. It can help you search for services in your local area, and is handy when you want to use the maps on your mobile devices.
GPS capability can be switched to "off" on your device, but Brett says to be aware that the capability is still present. And even though the service is turned off, it can, in some circumstances, reveal your location.
"When we download apps, it is now common for the programme to ask for certain 'permissions' when it comes to what the app - and, ultimately, the operators of that app - can access on our device, prior to installation," he explains.
"More often than not, the app will ask to have access to our device's GPS functionality."
Consider these factors before sharing your location online:
- When downloading apps, look carefully at the conditions and what the app wishes to access on your phone or device.
- Know that location data is stored when you take a digital photo, and this data remains with that photo. Other users can access this information.
- Remember that others looking to harm or negatively affect your family require your location.
- When was the last time you checked your GPS settings on your device?
To be safe, Brett advises you to share your family's location only if it is really necessary.
2. Your photo is shared or reposted without your permission
Remember that, when you post or share something online, you can never be guaranteed total privacy or control, says Brett.
That said, there are steps you can take to minimise this risk.
First, ensure that you understand your account's privacy settings, and adjust it so that only your close friends and family can see what you have posted, says Robyn Rishani, cyber safety expert and speaker, and founder of the Australian-based Your Kids Online.
Let your family, friends and other online contacts know what you expect of them when you post the files, says Brett.
For example, no copying, reposting or forwarding is allowed.
If you discover that others are posting images and videos of your little one, and you have a problem with that, don't hesitate to have a word with them, he advises.
"The photos and videos of your kids are your property and should be treated as such."
In fact, you may want to consider sharing your pictures and videos in a more secure way, he adds - for example, via a password-protected account such as Dropbox.
That way, you can choose the people you want to share the materials with.
Thinking of entering Junior's photos or videos in a contest? Brett says to consider these questions before sharing any files or information:
- Is the organisation running the contest reputable? Where is it based?
- What are the terms and conditions of the contest? What does the agreement state?
- What rights are you giving the organisation with regard to how it can or will use your photos, videos and information? How long can they use or hold on to your files and details?
- Has the organiser put any technical measures in place that may dissuade or prevent others from misusing your files and information?