92% of 2 year-olds have an online footprint

by Larry Magid
This post first appeared on CNET News.com

There has been a lot of concern about young people posting too much information about themselves online, but a study commissioned by security company AVG found that 92 percent of U.S. children have some type of online presence by the time they are 2 years old. A third of U.S. mothers posted pictures of newborns, and 34 percent of U.S. moms said they had posted sonograms of their as-yet unborn child.

This baby picture of Larry was taken long before we had to worry about digital footprints (Credit: Larry's parents)

The study, conducted by Research Now, surveyed 2,200 mothers with young children in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan during the week of September 27. American parents, according to the study, are more likely to share baby pictures and information online than parents from other countries in the survey. Seventy-three percent of parents in the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany, and Italy said they were willing to share images of their infants.According to the study, the average “digital birth” of children worldwide happens at about six months, with a third of children having photos of them posted online within two weeks of birth.

AVG Chief Executive J.R. Smith acknowledged that “it’s completely understandable why proud parents would want to upload and share images of very young children with friends and families,” but he urged parents to remember that they are “creating a digital history for a human being that will follow him or her for the rest of their life.”

Smith makes a good point. I don’t worry about putting a child in danger simply by sharing his or her photos online, but I do think that it’s important for parents to consider that their babies will someday turn into preteens and teens who might have some issues with their baby pictures floating around the Web. (See Lance Whitney’s Q&A with Smith.) Also, be careful about what types of pictures you post. Photos that may be appropriate for family viewing could be inappropriate, if shared with the general public.

AVG’s research also reinforces the need for parents to think about the privacy settings on their social-networking profiles, including not just Facebook but other sites, such as Flickr, Picasa, and YouTube. All of these sites have privacy settings that can limit who can see what. Facebook allows members to control who has access to photos and other shared media on a post-by-post basis.

Having said that, there is always the possibility that someone with access can copy, store, or forward anything you post.

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