Paranoid parents and pictures of kids on-line

First off, let me just say that parents who are afraid to post pictures of their kids on-line need to get over themselves.  Seriously.  Your kids are surely at much greater risk from your own bathtub.  Might as well get rid of your indoor plumbing.  The N&O had an article today about this “controversial” topic and it classic facile journalistic style tried to take a look at “both sides” of the issue:

Parents are grappling with what is safe and what fears are irrational. As with most debates about child safety, the risks are not as severe as many imagine. But neither is posting photos online as safe as many assume.

Guess what– it is as safe as you assume.  Here’s the key:

"Research shows that there is virtually no risk of pedophiles coming to get kids because they found them online," said Stephen Balkam, chief executive of the Family Online Safety Institute. While the debate makes this crime seem common, he said, all the talk is really just "techno-panic."

Professor David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, says TV shows like the "Dateline NBC" program "To Catch a Predator" have falsely inflated the danger of the Internet.

So, what are those legitimate concerns?  Someone might find an on-line picture of your particularly cute kid and use it in an advertisement or something.  Oh, horror of horrors!  Or, in the really shocking development, Brazilian teenage girls might decide to photoshop your kid's face onto an adult body in some weird on-line game they play.  Somebody protect my children!!  Somehow, I think I’ll take the risks of this to share the photos of my beautiful boys.  They’re right here, by the way.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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