This post was originally published in August 2020. We’ve updated it and wanted to share it again while we are focusing on safety.
You try to do everything you can to keep your grandchildren safe.
You pay attention to the way they sleep, make sure the car seat is installed correctly, and don’t let them ride off on their bike without their helmet. But there are dangers in the world that go beyond the physical—and one is a danger that didn’t exist when your own children were young.
If you are one of the 75% of grandparents who uses social media, you may be endangering your grandchildren in a way you never considered.
Facebook and Instagram have replaced the pictures of their grandchildren that grandmothers used to carry. Now instead of pulling out their wallet to show off the latest, grandparents share those photos with their friends on social media. And even if they are very careful with their privacy settings, they are also sharing them with the world. Any photo posted publicly can be used by anyone for anything. Moreover, photos posted privately can still end up being shared more widely than the poster intended.
But it’s not just the photos that are shared—it’s the information that goes with them.
A million children in the US were victims of identity theft in 2017. Too many grandparents post photos on social media with information that exposes their children and grandchildren to identity theft and hackers. Personally identifiable information should be treated like gold, and yet every day I see public posts announcing the birth of a baby with full name and birthdate mentioned. Many of these posts make it easy to figure out birthplace and mother’s maiden name, too. That proud and unsuspecting grandparent has just handed a potential identity thief four of the most useful pieces of information they could want. Even with your privacy settings set as securely as possible, nothing that is posted on the internet is truly secure.
Our grandchildren are the first generation of children to grow up with social media since birth. Unlike most aspects of being a parent or grandparent, there is no collective wisdom guiding us on how to navigate the ability to share every moment of these children's lives. It's up to each of us to educate ourselves and safeguard our grandchildren.
To help grandparents use social media safely, More Than Grand offers a handy tip sheet for protecting your grandchild’s privacy online. You can download it here.
PS: I highly recommend getting a copy of Growing Up Shared by Stacey Steinburg to learn more about how social media may be impacting our grandchildren.
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