Most us that use Facebook have an individual account that we manage and decide who can and cannot see what, but don’t have it set so that no one can see it or find us. Wouldn’t that be opposite of why we set up the account in the first place – to keep in touch with others and find friends, old and new alike? However, within the range of options available from the social media tool is the ability to make groups which can be open, closed or secret, each option giving greater privacy. So I suppose that it should be any surprise that groups who wish to keep their activities away from prying eyes would choose to use the secret aspect of the site. This can also be true of groups who support extreme behaviours such as dieting and self-harm and even radical groups could communicate through an invitation-only approach. This issue was raised in an article on the BBC last week that was then picked on by the Children’s Commissioner and is being investigated further with Facebook and the Police. For more on this article follow this link.
What was interesting was the comment made down the article by a parent who had put a picture of her child on a blog and that it had ended up on one of these sites. In the article she is quoted as saying;
“I was horrified. Thinking that these innocent snapshots of my (then) 11-year-old daughter had become the subject of vile comments and disgusting exchanges between members of these groups was really upsetting.”
We tell young people of the risks of posting pictures, but maybe it’s time we shared the same message with their parents. We warn young people that their pictures could be used inappropriately yet many parents upload pictures that paedophiles would find exciting and these are then ‘stolen’ and shared within these communities. It may not be a nice way to raise parental awareness but sharing this message could be a way of engaging with parents in online safety and helping them to keep their children safer.