Experts in online safety
It might seem surprising, but selfie culture is much more than taking a simple snap of yourself. For millennials, early pioneers of the selfie, uploading a pic of yourself online is usually an opportunity to show off your best you, but for Gen Z, selfies have become so much more. Preened and perfect is out, and goofy, weird, and quirky is in – but one thing that we can be sure of, despite the changing trends? It’s not always the best idea to take a selfie.
It’s one thing to look back and cringe at your old selfies (we’ve all been there) but in today’s snap-happy world, it’s more important for young people to know the difference between an innocent photo and a potentially dangerous situation. If your teen is posting self-snapped pictures online, schedule a face-to-face chat to share these selfie safety tips ASAP.
1. Think location, location, location
As with any pictures your child shares on social media, they should be careful not to reveal any private information, especially regarding location. Many social media platforms and apps have GPS features that tag photos with the sender’s location. Avoid these apps altogether or at a minimum, disable any GPS capabilities.
It’s not just street signs or landmarks that can give away your child’s location, too. While it’s now the norm to document daily life through stories, posts, and videos, something that your child thinks is routine can easily give away just that – their routines and habits. Even something as innocuous as a high school logo on a T-shirt or gym bag could tip a stranger off to a child’s location.
2. Zoom in on reputation
Posting something online is like writing with a Sharpie — it’s permanent. Selfies, of course, are no exception. Your child’s online presence will likely be evaluated in the future by recruiters, admissions counselors, and employers, so reputation management is a necessity. Advise your child not to post selfies that are immodest or potentially offensive. The best selfies are those that express contentment and self-confidence.
3. Remember not everyone can keep a secret
It’s also important to know that selfies are sometimes used by teens for the purpose of sexting. Clearly communicate to your child the potentially public nature of any sort of texting and let them know that it is never OK to send a revealing picture to anyone, even if it is supposed to be kept private. Even Snapchat pictures, which disappear within seconds, can be captured with a screen shot and shared with the whole world in an instant.
4. Everything in moderation
Nearly everything is better in moderation (even cake), and this includes selfies. Even in a world where selfies are run-of-the-mill, posting too many pictures of yourself can be perceived as vain, desperate, or at the very least, obsessive. Advise your child to post these types of photos every now and then, not daily.
5. The earlier the talk, the better
Finally, it’s important to have discussions about online image from a young age. If you take selfies and upload them to social media, explain to your child what you’re doing, and why. If you take family or group shots, ask for your child’s permission to post selfies online and explain to them why this is important.
Worrying about selfies may seem like a “social media age” problem that only teen parents have to consider, but children as young as 7 can easily be found on social media these days. In fact, one 2021 study reported that 32% of kids ages 7-9 were using social media, rising to almost 50% in children aged 10-12.
Have regular discussions with your child about the digital world and its implications – what it means for you, for their experience now, and what it might hold for them in the future. Our free family digital agreement is a useful resource to get the conversation started, and will help all family members set out online boundaries and guidelines. Regular reminders and discussions will help them know what to expect, and allow you to enjoy more honest, open communication about your child’s digital footprint – benefits for everyone!