#DigitalParenting Resource: Protecting Children’s Privacy Online with @comparitech

I like this resource looking at managing and protecting children’s privacy online. As they say ‘better to hear it from a parent than learn it from a stranger or God-knows-who online’. As I wrote in Raising Children in a Digital Age, conversation is key in managing your child’s use of digital (rather than burying your head in the sand in the face of all the terrifying media stats).

It covers a range of things that are useful for adult’s to understand for themselves, and for their children:

  • Don’t rely on the internet and the government for regulation of the issues.
  • Understand that children’s privacy is an issue, but that there is plenty that you can do about it:
    • Follow and friend your kids
    • Don’t use social logins on untrusted sites
    • Learn how to manage privacy settings on:
      • Devices, including Android, iPhone, web browsers
      • Platforms including Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr
  • Managing ID theft protection
  • Reviews parental control software
  • Using a VPN
  • Anonymising your child’s content
  • What kind of information you can collect on children
  • Leaving a digital trail

Read the full article here.

Media & Press Media - Audio

[MEDIA] Discussing the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ with @UCBNewsTeam

Yesterday, I spoke to UCB Radio about the new data legislation:

People will get a new right to force social media companies and online traders to delete their personal data under laws to be brought forward by the government this summer. Matt Hancock, the minister for digital, said it would amount to a “right to be forgotten” by companies, which will no longer be able to get limitless use of people’s data simply through default “tick boxes” online. Guardian

Here’s the segment used within the news programme:

Listen to the full programme here.

And here’s the full conversation:


#SID2017 – Are people ‘over-sharenting’? #DigitalParenting

Safer Internet Day 2017 is tomorrow – on the theme of ‘Be the change: Unite for a better internet‘, encouraging all stakeholders to ‘join together to make the internet a safer and better place for all, and especially children and young people.’

This afternoon, I was contacted by BBC Radio Manchester about the possibility of discussing the current concerns re ‘sharenting’ on their breakfast show – it has already been knocked off by other more local concerns, but I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts – I haven’t got time to over-work them, so they’ll be a bit rough and ready!

Sharenting was a new term only briefly referenced in my 2014 book Raising Children in a Digital Age:

The Parenting Place in New Zealand notes that many parents are announcing their pregnancy online (around 25 per cent share the news via the first scan), posting the child’s birth, first words, and first steps, creating a digital shadow before the child is even born. By the time they’re two, more than 90 per cent of children have an online history. A new term, “Sharents”, has been created for parents who appear to share every moment of their child’s life. Mashable gives some useful advice to such parents, and to those trying to cope with the “baby overload”: don’t believe that others have “perfect lives” with their children. Raising Children in a Digital Age, p97

By 2015 it was clearly in use, see Alicia Blum-Ross’s definition as  “the slightly awkward term for when parents share photos and stories about their kids online, via social networks and blog.”. It appears to have become a bigger concern since then – just do a quick search of Google News:

Mummy Bee gives some good advice, as she wrestles with the topic herself “It’s one thing if you occasionally post a picture or two of your child at his birthday party or a video of her taking her first steps. But once you share picture after picture of moments that might embarrass the kid later on, you’re officially a sharent.” It’s not only about pictures, if you share about other aspects of life, is that problematic too?

As always, there’s a seeking to understand what we are doing ‘in a digital age’, where the digital as ‘as real’ as anything in the physical world. There are historical precedents for the kind of things that we share – the old photo albums, the photos on the mantelpiece, the dodgy stories (told in wedding speeches, etc.), but the digital, and the easy availability of quality cameras without associated processing costs, have made it easy to share every aspect of our lives very easily.

Another extract from my book, with the proviso that we should all be becoming more au fait with the privacy settings on our software (and pressuring companies to make it easier to do so) – and being very clear about who is in the groups, etc. that you share this content with:

When you are using the internet, or advising your children, consider your privacy. Mark Zuckerberg, the man behind Facebook, has said that privacy is “no longer a social norm”. This can be seen from the way that Facebook encourages us to connect with more and more people, in order to enable them to continue to draw in advertising (which funds their business model). The web is a place that “rewards openness”: assume that everything you write online is potentially for public consumption (in the same way as anything that is written on paper could be photocopied and shared, or spoken and recorded). Don’t get paranoid and refuse to share, but establish your criteria. Mine would be: Am I happy for my parents to see this? Or any children I work with? Would I mind seeing it on the front page of a newspaper (or shared publicly around Twitter, as Randi Zuckerberg did)? Could my worst enemy do anything with what I’ve written? None of this should stop you posting, but it should cause you to pause and think. Just because you can, doesn’t always mean that you should. Raising Children in a Digital Age, p88

Bearing in mind that ‘the cybersphere is increasingly reflecting the social, economic and cultural inequalities of the offline world’ Barker & Jane, Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice, 2016, p467, I’m always keen to look beyond “what is the technology doing to us”, to thinking how we are individually and corporately shaping technology, as well as the wider context that we are working within… and always particularly interested in historical parallels!

I used to think ‘reasons my son is crying’ were funny, and to be honest, sometimes I still do – in the same way as You’ve Been Framed – maybe. It’s all too easy to get precious about these things, especially when we’re fed a steady media diet of pornography, grooming and privacy losses, but I have become uncomfortable about the more ‘social shaming’ aspect of these kind of posts. A friend said that they had used Facebook to reprimand their child for not replacing the toilet roll, and agreed to take it down (particularly as the child was tagged in the photo of the empty toilet roll – visual = important you see!).

There’s always the question of whether taking photos is at expense of ‘real interacting’, to which I think is often not the case, but if an entire blog is about every nuance of a child’s life, where does that put us (we have laws in place for children of celebrities, what about the children of ordinary children – this is where organisations such as 5Rights are raising the debate re: access to removing content)? As always, it’s all too easy to focus on the negative of digital aspects of life, when there’s real positives in sharing stuff (with trusted groups, good privacy settings). Sharing is something that many have grown up with (as we did, maybe, when we picked up the phone as soon as we got home from school). With family literally spread in four corners of England,  it’s nice to SEE people in between times, especially my nieces and nephews – it really makes up for only physically being able to see them infrequently – although one can choose which platform (e.g. Whatsapp family group).

I also think it’s really helpful sharing some of the ‘messiness’ of life, and knowing that you’re not the only one dealing with kids doing x/y/z, and for those who have particularly difficult home lives, as always with the ‘aware who sharing with’ (you wouldn’t leave your child alone in a public park would you – that’s much of how I describe much of social media),  it’s cathartic and ‘no more than a chat’ in the social space… or is it? How much damage is done by being negative about children online?

I wondered also if this is similar to the ‘exam howlers that are shared by teachers and academics (part of keeping selves sane whilst marking, and on occasion, wondering if you were speaking in Klingon!) falls within this remit. Partly it’s whether it’s traceable to you/the student, and whether it’s done in humour or cruelty – or does it not matter?

One friend highlighted the importance of joining a ‘nice non-judgemental group‘, and had created her own for child related/family issues. Seen as a great space for support, to share photos of kids, ‘memes to cheer us up but also ask each other advice all the time. It’s good to know you’re not the only one – when you can feel like you’re messing up . It’s a closed group for safety and I chat with every new joiner. I do get ‘odd’ profiles apply occasionally (fake profile photo etc) and refuse them instantly.’ Most seem to appreciate the safe-space support, and recognise that it’s about the parents as much as about the kids.

The importance of support groups as a ‘real source of support and sharing, useful contacts and advice’ was highlighted by another friend, who indicated it’s a shame that we live in a culture in which child abuse, etc. is so prominent, that e.g. photos from school plays were withdrawn in recent years, and we have become more fearful about all kinds of things.

I really don’t like the idea that we live ‘over-curated lives’ and appreciated this thought from another friend:

Not at all sure that this is what you’re after, but I get really distressed when parents share nothing positive about their children and complain lots. I’m well aware that parenting is really tough and it’s a good way of getting support at a time when it’s difficult to get away from kids/home to meet friends etc. But I worry about the impact it may have on the kids if they get to see it and/or if people in the kid’s life will relate differently to them because of it. Also, as someone who is trying to get accustomed to the fact that I won’t be a parent having spent my entire life assuming I would be, I feel for all the people reading this stuff who would give anything to have sleepless nights etc if that was the reason.

Others disagree that parents should share so much at all:

I’m not really comfortable with pictures of kids who are too young to consent to it being on the internet at all. While parents are supposedly responsible for their kids, imagine getting into your teens and your on-line persona having already been created by someone else. With those school pictures from when you weren’t allowed to choose your own hairstyle…

But overall, the feeling seems to be that can share, but be careful what sharing, considering how you don’t make the child identifiable (e.g. their schools, their medical conditions, etc.), and not saying anything you wouldn’t say to your own child (at some point) – and they may even enjoy being part of the online conversation (excited by the likes/comments a post gets):

There are specific FB groups where I raise particular concerns and ask advice but I am very careful because some of them have large memberships and can be “competitive” and bullying. I am incredibly uneasy about the YouTube families which share so many details of their lives online. I know that means that Little Person thinks that is an acceptable thing to do and doesn’t understand why I won’t let her do similar.

They’ll always be people who overshare in every aspect of life – digital and physical!  It’s a complex topic, and one that we are working out in real-time. It’s possible to become over-cautious, but also over-careless. Let’s think carefully about what, and who, we share with!

The final comment on my Facebook that made me giggle in response to the ‘moral panic’ type issues raised in this post “Make the Internet Great Again!” “Build a firewall and make Microsoft pay for it!!”

Then sit back and watch the tweets from #SID2017 roll in … and Instagram, and Facebook, and and and…

Digital Media & Press Media - Audio

[RADIO] Talking About Danielle Lloyd @BBC5Live

BBC Radio 5 Live

Shortly after this picture was taken, I was on responding to the story about Danielle Lloyd sharing a photo on Instagram of her son with her new boyfriend – as shared by a number of news outlets, including The Daily Mail. The other participant in the conversation, Ben, had had ‘an amicable divorce’ and was giving his response.

The notes that I had prepared were (bold bits came up somewhere in the conversation):

With fame comes extra responsibility to think before pressing that button – just because we can, doesn’t mean we should… so ties into questions of larger culture, which I might have opinions on, rather than expertise in. Part of our larger obsession with celebrity …


I have no idea who these people are, much as I don’t want to know who e.g. Kim Kardashian is – unless she’s using her celebrity for ethical reasons! Were these pics posted to make the news, did she know that they would be controversial? And you’re never going to be loved by everyone, especially in the UK where we love to build people up, then knock them down!


Depends partly how the relationship with the dad is – as surely he’s likely to be happy to see his child secure and happy within the new relationship as they’ve both moved on. Comments indicate that he also shares pictures and does need to fit with the wider narrative of what is shared… The responses on Instagram are interesting – largely positive/to her defence…


The question here seems to be related to the question of what is appropriate – and the assumption that anyone not related by blood is a threat to a child (step-parents = OK + can be problems with blood relatives). Could lead to bigger questions about our expectations of women, etc…


Also a question as to how the media, needing to fill the 24 hour news cycle is sharing this kind of story – particularly the red tops… and reposting the picture… and taking the opportunity to drag up cheating, etc. and an opportunity to show her cosmetic Brazilian bum lift … headlines, etc. and the way the story is framed change its meaning a lot.


Related to larger question of children’s pictures, etc. online – story in NY Times last week about children asking that their parents post less pictures of them – it is a public space … other celebrities have been very careful not to overshare … part of the thing with online is that it’s so easy to QUICKLY share… (we all need to think before we share)


Good Facebook discussion, including Heather Stanley – “But intimate, or arguably private moments move us all the time. For instance, the photo of little Aylan Kurdi lying washed up on the beach – should it have been published without permission from his family, or at all? It changed the way the the world saw the refugee crisis (for a while anyway.) And who knows what this photo has done for the fans of Danielle, maybe who admire her for going through difficult family times.”


The power of ‘below the line’ comments – which we always say don’t read them – tend to be filled in by those with strong opinions going into battle, and often don’t reflect well on anyone… and as FB respondees said – everyone does seem to have an opinion on those they think they “know”.

We ran into the news pips, so it was short and sweet, but interesting story non-the-less! Audio should be available on iPlayer later.

Digital Media & Press Media - Audio

#SID2016: 11 Tips for Limiting Cloned Social Media Accounts (@BBCNewcastle)

This morning, it’s Safer Internet Day (see #SID2015), and I arranged to chat to BBC Radio Newcastle about a story they are featuring, involving a Newcastle woman whose Instagram account was cloned by a 15-year-old girl from down south, and then used to build fake accounts, including Facebook, Twitter and a dating profile. The 15-year-old seemed to be enjoying the attention she was gaining as an attractive older woman, whilst the woman herself was concerned at how young her impersonator was, and discovered who it was via the girl’s school.

[Audio to add here when available]

What behaviour is typical at what age?

Here’s a brief extract from Raising Children in a Digital Age (2014), summarising information from Professor Tanya Byron’s government report as to what to expect at different ages:

Eleven to fourteen years: This is typically an era characterized by hormones as puberty strikes, and the emphasis for children moves largely from home and the family towards the external world, their peers, and “idols” in the quest to become “independent”. This means a shift from parental identification to peer identification, requiring a degree of experimentation that may involve taking risks. Brain changes cause an inherent drive to seek out social experiences: “these are more likely to be sought in the digital world as we restrict children’s and young people’s access to outdoor, offline socialisation.” Children and young people may start to actively seek out age-restricted material and games that are designed for adults, so keep the communication channels open for discussions of risk and challenging content.


Fifteen to eighteen years: In Western culture this is officially the last stage of “childhood”, when young people are still the responsibility of their parents but take increasing responsibility for their own decisions and identities. Abstract thinking is likely to be well developed, and evaluation of information and making judgments is becoming more balanced as young people develop their own set of values and beliefs (which may be different from their parents’), for which space should be allowed. This is a good opportunity for young people to experiment with different roles and identities, and make decisions for themselves, while still within the safety of family support.

What are the issues that cloned social media sites raise?

Questions we were seeking to consider in the radio interview include how easy is it to clone someone else’s account, how common is it, and what might one do to protect oneself? Also, what does it say about the cloner?

For me, this raises bigger questions about our online presence – what ‘reality’ do we project online, so if there’s a new account, will people recognise that it’s not you? Have you developed a clear ‘tone of voice’, so that, like plagiarism, there’s an “off-tone” that warns others that it’s not you. Question what you want to achieve through participation online – how do you share holistically without oversharing – and have you made good use of privacy settings supplied by each of the social networks? Social media accounts can make it much easier for people to undertake identity fraud, so we need to be aware of what is going on, educate ourselves, and ensure that we don’t become digitally agoraphobic!

How big an issue is digital cloning?

In January this year, the Guardian published a video, featuring Aleks Krotoski, looking at ‘The Power of Privacy’ – definitely an area of growing concern – and a sophisticated internet user can also fall for it:

In trying to establish the commonality of this, it seems difficult to track down numbers – this report indicates that in 2013, 6.19 million Facebook profiles were cloned in South Africa, in 2014 LinkedIn was closing down thousands of cloned accounts, and in 2009 Twitter was having to close down a huge number of fake accounts – each of which was opening up security flaws. These examples and  this paper on ‘Detecting Social Network Profile Cloning‘, published in 2010, indicate that it’s certainly not a new problem – but the number of users, and the complex number of social media accounts that we sign up to – certainly mean that it has become a more common problem.

I’ve been recommended to watch Catfish, a film described by an Amazon reviewer as:

…a wake up call to the millions of social media addicts who tend to forget that appearances in the virtual world, that is the web, can be so much more deceptive than those in real life. People lie and can be devious in the real world, but once behind a computer screen, almost everyone feels safe enough to appear as ‘awesome’ as possible, sometimes creating a persona that is an altar ego of a naturally flawed personality. Such deceptions can be just innocent in most cases, but they can lead to abuse and violence in extreme instances.

What motivates scammers, hackers and cloners?

As the number of startups continues, privacy policies are often an afterthought, rather than integral to the site build. Most scammers, hackers and cloners and looking to expose human vulnerabilities – the need for human connection, sharing, building relationships, and to take advantages of the opportunities online. Typically, people will clone another user for one of three reasons:

  • For profit (to extract favours and money from friends, or hack into organisational systems)
  • For revenge (sharing compromising or confidential information to cause harm)
  • For fun (trolling as a sport).

If you’re susceptible to hacking ‘for profit’, check out this article as to potential motivations.

11 tips to ensure that your social media account is not cloned:

  1. On Facebook and LinkedIn, don’t accept people you don’t know as friends or connections (or at least undertake conversations, or establish ‘true’ relationships in common) – this isn’t true for public sites such as Twitter.
  2. Divide your Facebook friends into interest groups (family, close friends, colleagues, schoolmates, parenting groups, acquaintances, etc.) and post information only to the relevant groups
  3. Limit access to your Facebook data only to your friends – take care when choosing what to publish publicly. Understand Facebook privacy basic settings.
  4. Think about what you are sharing online – care with oversharing information about where you live, your children, and when you’re on holiday except with close friends.
  5. Help your friends by letting them know if you receive an invitation from a cloned account.
  6. If your friends spot an invitation to a new account, when they know you already have one, ask them to get in contact with you.
  7. Report cloned accounts as soon as possible: Facebook; Instagram; Twitter – those of us who are more tech savvy need to be particularly vigilant in helping friends who are unaware of the potential. Organisations also need to be aware of this.
  8. Consider utilising the two-step verification processes when offered
  9. Use a variety of passwords across different sites, so that the problem is less likely to spread outside the initial network.
  10. Ensure you have good anti-virus software installed and updated, so that data on your computer itself is not at risk.
  11. Social media sites themselves will identify unusual behaviour – such as a Facebook account that normally logs in in the UK, logging in in France – and will ask for re-verification.

Note that it’s not always famous people who are cloned, or even those with the largest follower/friend connections. Hackers are looking for vulnerabilities, and personal, social and corporate responsibility all come into play here. One thing to remember is that as the digital throws up ‘new’ problems, it also offers new solutions – the report mentioned earlier highlights steps that are being taken to use the power of digital (it’s pattern recognition and algorithms, along with its connectivity) to identify potential clone accounts before human beings notice them.

Interacting Online

I’m often heard saying, we are not interacting with computers, nor have we become computers – we need to remember that behind each computer, there is a human being with feelings, vulnerabilities, etc. and we need to think about what our interactions online look like:

Thanks to my Facebook friends for providing so many suggestions to think about!