Protect Your Child’s Online Presence

laptopAs a parent, I believe it is my responsibility and my DUTY to protect my children from all sorts of dangers. Whether it be “stranger danger,” serious injury, or the threat of a natural disaster, it is my job to keep my children safe. But what about online safety?

It has recently come to my attention that this is something many parents either don’t understand or don’t care about. Perhaps some parents are simply too busy posting their own narcissistic junk to Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to care about people posting images of their children without prior consent. Well, I don’t have a Facebook account, and I do care about my young child’s online image.

I have a son in 2nd grade. He goes to a fantastic elementary school with a great staff and incredible teachers. However, his school has been posting more and more items to social media lately… Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like seem to be running rampant within school districts all over the country

At the beginning of the school year a ton of papers came home to sign. I read them, signed them, and sent them back without much thought as they’re all pretty self-explanatory. A month passed and I saw a post on the website about a student-run video newsletter the school was starting. It’s very cool, kids interviewing kids about school and activities. Awesome, right? Yes! IF it was for private parent/student viewing. But it’s not. It’s public on YouTube. It’s posted to Facebook. There are links on Twitter.

Well, the introduction of these student-run news videos made me think back to the forms I had signed at the beginning of the year. I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember signing anything to opt in or out of publicly displaying images of my child.

I did what I believe many responsible parents would do… I emailed the principal to ask about it. Turns out I wasn’t crazy, no such form was sent home, and he had to create a link to one on the school website. My son’s principal was amazingly quick to fix what I perceive as a huge mistake. He mentioned it in his next online newsletter (one featuring adults only), he put information about opting out in the next paper newsletter sent home, and he created a page on the school website about it. Wonderful!

But I still feel like it all should have been done BEFORE any student videos went up on a public forum. It is my right, as a parent, to determine my child’s online presence and online reputation; from the games he plays and has social interaction on to the chatrooms and websites he visits. But at every turn I feel like that right is being slowly taken from me.

We need to get our school out there! School pride! Fun! Woohoo! I say NO! Parental rights, keeping my child from engaging in online activities I deem inappropriate for his age, keeping his online image a clean slate until HE IS READY to create his own image, as he sees fit! Where are the safeguards for those of us who want our own children, when they’re ready and with our guidance, to be the ones who determine how they appear to others online?!

My child should not be forced to petition a school 15 years from now to remove a video of him from 2nd grade. A video posted by the school, on their YouTube account, that my child (though in the video) has no control of… this is insanity and it has to stop! Test scores will determine the rank of a public school. Other than transfer students (for which there are only so many slots per year), a public school needs nothing but good teachers and good test scores for word to get out about how fantastic of a school it is. Social media is unnecessary, unwarranted, and in my mind, unwanted when it comes to my child!

For any parent out there reading this article, take a look at your county website… it may be written that your child’s school may use his/her image as they see fit unless you take the time to OPT OUT! So take the extra five minutes, look around on your child’s school website or the main county school website and take back your parental control over your child’s online presence! Let’s make good decisions for our children and their online lives… teach them, guide them, and when they’re ready, let the children decide how they want to be portrayed online.

Take back parental control. I’m with you and I’m living it.

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