PARENTS

Kids Posting Selfies Online. What Parents Can Do

14/08/2014 16:56 | Updated 22 May 2015

Girls taking picture in bed

For many, David Cameron included, it would seem the selfie is a harmless memento of a moment in time, snapped and shared quickly, without a second thought.

For my children, whose reality TV and R&B heroines perpetually knock out a provocative shot or six, the attraction is growing.

Sometimes I pick up my own phone and discover a load of new photos in its picture gallery, as Melissa, one of my 15-year-old twins has grabbed an opportunity to take about 20 shots of herself sat in an armchair in our lounge.

She tells me it's fun and that her friends are all doing it too. When I express the merest hint of advising caution, she tells me there's no need to worry.

With selfie named as a word of the year, I yearn for a time (is it really that long ago?) when children my daughters' age had no inkling of what it meant.

As Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, One Direction and Little Mix regularly show my children examples of the lure of the selfie, my concern holds little sway.

There have been some very troubling reports recently informing us that "selfies end up with perverts" or equally alarmingly, such photos put youngsters at risk of abuse.

Experts warn that innocent pictures taken by children themselves are ending up in the hands of potential abusers, who are much more switched on to how to find and manipulate these images than your average teenager.

The problem comes not from taking the pictures but from where they are shared. My daughters regularly broadcast images of themselves in new outfits they have saved for, or posing at parties. When my daughter Emily rejoined Facebook after getting bored with it, this came complete with a new photo emblazoned across the computer screen – both her and her sister, suntanned and relaxed in their bikinis – a double whammy of a selfie.

They see absolutely nothing wrong with that. I was apoplectic. My pleas about how this was a totally inappropriate image to share went ignored. Emily assured me that her privacy settings mean nobody but friends and family could see the picture. But what happens when they share, like or comment? With confusion often rife about how Facebook actually works and rules regularly changing, how can any of us feel safe from prying – and predatory – eyes?

My friend Elaine recoils in horror when I mention the words 'selfie' and 'perverts' in the same breath. Her girls are aged seven and 11, and she is all too aware of how the time could well be looming when she will also face such dilemmas.

"However much we talk to them about the dangers of the internet, they still don't really grasp what we mean," she says.

"And why would they, they are children, it's saddening to think that things have changed so much and so fast that we need to have these conversations with them."

I have to agree. Raging against Kim Kardashian posing in the skimpiest of swimming costumes and gaining millions of hits, I ask what is she famous for and why do my daughters find her so fascinating?

Wherever selfies are posted, there's also another worrying aspect, I hear my daughters discussing how many likes or comments they attract when they post, how much more or less this is than someone else's pictures. I tell them it doesn't matter. But for teenage girls, it's a hard message to heed.

My daughters are sensible girls who know right from wrong and they do want to stay safe. So what can I advise them on how to do that, specifically relating to selfies?

As ever, the answer can lie with the internet.

I've asked them to read Selfie Tips for Teens from a blog called Qustodio.

There's also a wealth of information about staying safe online for younger children from the BBC.

My own advice would include making sure your children do have privacy settings which mean only people they genuinely know can see their images, they never give out too much information about where they are and they never ever post pictures of themselves in bikinis.

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