Posted by: coachingparents | July 9, 2009

Social Media: The Sexual Predator


As a marketer and web designer specializing in social media marketing, I have one rule that is never broken. No personal pictures of children. I would rather lose a client because I know that the web is a scary place filled with anonymity and people with no value for children. While parents protect their children from those hiding in the shadows of secrecy in real life, many parents unwittingly expose their children to thousands of sexual predators and molesters who are simply a click away.

If there is one message that I would love to give every parent who engages in social media or marketing for their business it would be: the web is not your friend!

Here are six NEVER DO things for social media and websites to protect your children:

1.  Never use pictures of your children as your profile picture. So many parents use pictures of their children instead of themselves as profile or avatar images. While I appreciate the need for parents to retain obscurity, think about the exposure of your children and their image to mass populations of people.

2.  Never put pictures of your children on your website or blog. Perhaps the most accessible way to gain pictures, a website or blog surrenders pictures with just a right click and SAVE AS. Posing a double threat, many website and blogs are directly traceable to a location by phone number or direct address.  Might as well place a google map on your child with a large YOU ARE HERE arrow.

3.  Never share pictures over social media.  Having seen people post a link to vacation pictures or family fun on Twitter or Facebook, the warning light bulb burns white hot upon the realization that thousands of unknown people exist in each account. Even in the strictest of social media sites that require you to validate your “friends,” people can sneak in to your connections. Further, when connections comment on your photos, your photos show up in the highlights of their connections! In certain social media, your pictures can be shared and re-tweeted to a whole new group of people without your knowledge.

4.  Never send pictures over email. If you send pictures of your children to company email addresses, then they go through a server administrated by people. As email can easily be viewed, saved, downloaded, and forwarded, grabbing these pictures of your children is not difficult. Most servers automatically scan downloads and attachments for viruses and generate reports to administrators.

5.  Never forget that someone does not have to touch your child to exploit them. When placing the pictures of your children in any online electronic format, never forget that you are exposing them to exploitation by one simple right click. In the thousands of people on the internet and in social media profiles, consider the chances that one of them is either a pedophile or sexual predator. The chances are very good!

6.  Never let innocence block your view of the truth. So many parents see their children with innocence rather than the potential for exploitation. Innocent pictures of children in the bath tub or playing in the backyard sprinkler are graphic to a sick mind. Although it might be painful to think in that manner, there are many consequences more painful than protecting your child by seeing the truth.

People often protect their financial information more stringently than their children because they feel safe in tucking their children into bed at night.

Not quite…in reality, it takes less than 10 seconds to right click on a picture and upload it to a new webpage. In those 10 seconds, a charming picture of a 7 year old girl in her new bathing suit splashing around in a pool can hit a child pornography website and be up for sale to thousands of pedophiles for a few dollars.

Sickening? Yes.

Are you ready for worse? Social media pages and websites often have exact locations connected to the parents’ profile. Even more directly, many social media profiles have websites that list as a location and phone number on the website or in a domain search. In less time than it takes to post that innocent picture to share with family and friends, a child molester can find the exact address of your child. When posting pictures of children, many parents post their names and ages with the picture.

Is there anything more persuasive for a child than a person who knows their parents name as well as their own? It is quite an advantage for sexual predator.

After watching a recent episode of Raising the Bar, it was very clear that my own experiences with parents reflects the comfortable naiveté of reality in how often people forget that the web is not their friend because we have grown up with the web as a part of our lives. I suggest this episode to every single person responsible for the well-being of children who uses the social media or the web as part of their connection with family, marketing for a business, or expansion of a social network.

Raising the Bar http://www.tnt.tv/dramavision/?oid=49111&eref=sharethisUrl.  

Remember: The web is not your friend!

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