Never before has the phrase 'a picture speaks a thousand words' been more relevant within society than it is today. In a digital world driven by social media, taking pictures and videos on your smartphone has become a part of modern-day life.
And we don't just take pictures now; we share them on a massive scale. In fact on Facebook alone, more pictures are now shared in the space of a month than were taken in the whole of 1999, before camera phones went on sale.
But how often do we stop and consider what happens to these pictures we're sharing, and the information they contain about our personal lives?
As parents we need to make sure our children understand the implications of their digital footprint; being careful about what they post online and respectful of others in the digital world. But it's also vital that we self-regulate our own online habits.
From the moment they're born, our children's lives are being documented across the internet, so it's vital to be aware of the potential risks of sharing too much information and the trail left behind.
Before posting any pictures or videos of your children, or indeed your friend's children, check your privacy settings and work out who is able to view your updates. Avoid posting pictures of your kids that might identify where you live or which school they go to, indeed many schools now ask parents not to post pictures of school plays and events onto social media.
An image you might consider humorous or cute could open the door to cyberbullying from your child's peer group. So it might be a good idea to agree with your son or daughter before sharing a private moment on your own social media accounts.
With Halloween just around the corner there will no doubt be countless more images, statuses and updates shared across every social media platform. This is also an opportunity to talk through, as a family, how to share things safely online.
With 44% of children aged 10-13 now using social media, many may not be fully aware of the implications and effects of their behaviour online. Children can be pressured into taking pictures of themselves or passing on images of others, without realising that this information can be instantly shared or copied.
A recent headline revealed how girls as young as nine were "sexting" naked snaps of themselves. West Yorkshire Police reported 121 cases of children sending nude selfies to each other last year.
Internet Matters suggests these tips for parents to protect their children on social media, particularly concerning images:
● Help them set privacy settings at the strongest level. Sites can change privacy settings so make sure you stay up to date with them.
● Teach your child never to share any personal details - this includes their password, real name, home address or their school.
● Explain that friends should be people they know - people they meet online may not be who they say they are. Talk to them about the risks involved with chatting to people they don't know and sharing personal information with them
● Set rules about what they should and shouldn't post.
● Explain that content they post can't always be taken back, and even if it can, it may already have been shared. This applies to webcams too - teach them to only use a webcam with people they know, and show them how to disable it.
● If you are concerned about the information already out there - about yourself or your children - run a Google search, also using Google Images, and if you find anything that you deem inappropriate you can take steps to remove it.
Internet Matters will be running a Halloween-themed photo booth at The Digital Kids Show in Manchester on 29-30 October with the aim of promoting "safe selfies".
For more information and step-by-step guides on how to keep you children safe online, go to www.internetmatters.org
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