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  • Pamela Armitage

Children and Online Safety

I'm going to start this blog off with an invitation to ask yourself why you post photos and videos of your kids? Most answers are somewhere along the lines of being proud, sharing what I love with others I love, and so on. If we were to dig a bit deeper, how much of that is to be seen and heard, to gain attention from others via our children? Not all and not everyone...but definitely some! This is not a judgement or accusation of being a bad parent, by any means. We all want to be seen and heard. It is an innate desire in all humans. However, sometimes a pause is needed to ask ourselves if the ways in which we seek this need are harmful, whether to ourselves or those we love.

I have been sharing research and education via Child Rescue Coalition lately regarding the dangers of sharing photos and videos of your children. It's like nobody gives a shit about it. Complete apathy and denial. This information clearly shows the increase of predators lifting photos of children from social media accounts, editing them or taking the likeness of children and using AI to put these children in sexual abuse material. They then share these images with other pedophiles online. Some being shared hundreds of thousands of times. Sure, the acts shown in these particular photos didn't happen to these children but does this make it any less horrific and dangerous? Less common but still happening is the likeness of children being used to make sex dolls. Yup. It's happening enough that Law and Order SVU recently did an episode around this disturbing fact.

Now, I often hear the argument or, as I like to call it "the justification narrative", of "well, my post settings are friends only, never public". OK, yes, less exposure than public settings, sure. However, can you say with 100% certainty that you know every single person on your friends and followers list to the core? Would you be willing to bet your child's life that they're ALL safe and would never do such things? I'm hearing crickets in my head because I doubt it. It is impossible to know they're all 100% safe.

Many predators blend in. They do not want to get caught, draw attention or get hurt. They are the ones when they are caught, most people are shocked. "I can't believe it!" Well, believe it.

I present to you one of countless examples, via Child Rescue Coalition:

This man was viewed as a "trusted neighbour". How many friends and followers lists do you think this guy was on? He manipulated photos of a neighbourhood kid! It is apathetic to think YOU are an exception to this rule. You live in the same world as these people. You are on the same social media platforms as these people.

Imagine for a moment, how it would make you and your child feel if you discovered a trusted neighbour or friend put photos of them online like this? Fucking. Horrific.

As well, consider the the potentiality that this comes to affect their future in another way. What if these lifted photos are used in another manner? Deep fakes have been used to spread malicious lies and disrupt people's lives. What could this do to future job prospects? Reputations? Relationships?

Another perspective to take on this topic is the lesson of consent and autonomy. A lesson that should be instilled in children as early as possible. One of the first methods of this lesson is hugs. Never make a child hug or kiss someone they don't want to. THEY get to decide, nobody else! And if aunty, uncle, gramma and grampa don't get it and are offended that is their problem to deal with. Not yours and not your child's.

So, with the same sentiment of consent and autonomy in mind, do you ask your child's permission to post photos and videos of them online? Or do you just snap and post for a like and to feed your own ego off the "So adorable!" comments? Did your ego get triggered when I said that? There's something there and I encourage you to dig into it. Our triggers are our greatest teachers.

Children are their own individuals. Little humans who, sadly, some people want to hurt. It's fucked up and horrible but a reality. A reality that doesn't go away because we ignore it and raising our children in bubbles and seeking validation and attention through them just puts them at risk.

When it comes to violence prevention, the best defense and safety for your children is to instill in them a strong sense of self confidence and esteem. This starts with your relationship with them. One built on trust, open and honest communication, apologies when you mess up, autonomy, boundaries and education. No bubbles.

I hope you think twice about posting photos and videos of them after reading this. I can understand why but the risks outweigh anything else. Think about the bigger picture. Put them first, please. At the very least, consider covering their faces with an emoji!

And support Child Rescue Coalition and others advocacy groups like them to get our kids safe AND catch these POS's! Child Rescue Coalition

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1 Comment

May 06

Hugely valuable - the point about consent is possibly the most important of all. Constantly invalidating kids’ choices and boundaries is depressingly normal - respecting them is conversely so powerful and important. The need to normalise this is massive 👊👊

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