Holidays at the beach or lake and eternalising the shared family experiences on photos – that’s what many people wish for at the moment. But is it really safe to share pictures of children and young people via messenger services or social media platforms? Alexandra Koch-Skiba, Head of the eco Complaints Office, reveals what parents should look out for to ensure that their holiday photos do not lead to any unpleasant surprises.
“It is completely understandable that parents take photos of their children on holiday and want to show them to others,” says Koch-Skiba. “But what matters is what is in the pictures and who they are shared with and on which platforms.”
1. Do not share pictures of a child in a bikini, swimsuit or showing too much naked skin
As a general rule, the attorney-at-law and Head of the Complaints Office recommends not sharing photos in which children and young people are naked or only slightly clothed. This also includes photos in swimwear. “Of course, parents also want to capture the trip to the seaside or the swimming pool, but special care is always needed here when sharing,” Koch-Skiba continues. She warns that family photos can fall into the wrong hands and become sexualised. Koch-Skiba: “Even though many parents already take this tip into account, a lot of awareness-raising work is still needed.” The fact that, for example, the hashtag #kidsbeachwear on the image platform Instagram contains more than 20,000 posts speaks volumes.
2. Covering or pixelating the faces of children and young people with smileys
But even with what seem like harmless photos, caution is advised. In the fight against sexualised violence online, Koch-Skiba and her team also encounter seemingly harmless pictures in which minors are fully clothed. “Even photos taken in the playground or at a child’s birthday party can sometimes turn up in paedophile forums and be placed in the wrong context,” Koch-Skiba warns. “Even if this is not the norm, parents should at least be aware that there is a certain risk. Anyone who covers their children’s faces with a smiley, pixelates them or even just photographs the back of their heads is definitely taking a safer bet here.”
3. Check security settings
Koch-Skiba further recommends sharing photos only with relatives or close friends. In this regard, popular social media platforms offer detailed security settings that go beyond the basic option of a private or public account. “Unfortunately, the Internet is only suitable to a limited extent as a digital family album that can be passed on,” says Koch-Skiba. “If I want to share holiday pictures in my status – that means temporarily and for up to 24 hours – I can now decide for each individual contact whether the photos are shown to them or not.”
4. Respect children’s rights
Where possible, parents should also involve their children concerning who they want to share their photos with. “Of course, this only works if the offspring are already a little older,” says Koch-Skiba. “But if you introduce your children to this topic at an early age, you are also doing important educational work for their later use of social media in their teens.” With regular workshops at schools and parents’ evenings, prevention is also part of the eco Complaints Office’s remit.
5. Report inappropriate photos
If there are doubts afterwards as to whether posting certain holiday pictures was really a good idea, Koch-Skiba advises deleting one’s own postings. This can at least minimise risks.
If Internet users discover inappropriate photos of children and young people, they can also report them to the eco Complaints Office, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.