The on and offline risks of sharing selfies

Selfies can be risky business.
Selfies can be risky business.

Other than ensuring a perfect portrait or group photo, no one really gives much thought to the commonly shared selfie. 

But truth be told, photos too freely shared pose a risk to your teen or tween when falling into the wrong hands. 

When sharing any kind of image, whether via social media or even text messaging apps with friends, it's best to remind your child of the adage: 'A picture is worth a thousand words'. 

So much detail can be picked up on from only one photo, so in addition to who your child befriends online or what information they're sharing, parents should be as cautious about the images their children are posting to their profiles or sending to friends. 

Here are a few guidelines you can pass along to your teens on what to bear in mind when sharing a selfie. 

Location Location Location 

While it may seem obvious, and chances are your tech-savvy teen may already be on top of turning off GPS tags or location settings, better safe than sorry. 

Disabling geolocations cannot be stressed enough, and just in case your smart AF teen doesn't know how to do this, here's a comprehensive guide by

A less obvious tip is to ensure your teen steers clear of landmark locations when taking those selfies. Changing out of their school uniform before reaching for the selfie stick is also advised. 

The billboard rule

In their book, Selfies, Sexts And Smartphones, social media legal expert, Emma Sadleir and psychologists Dr Lizzie Harrison share their golden rule regarding all things digital: the billboard rule. 

Before digitising anything, ask your teen to think about whether they would be comfortable if what they were about to post was to somehow end up on a billboard with their name next to it? 

Also see: 5 things teens need to know about cybersecurity

Let's talk about sex(ting)

While they may not be the kind of selfie you would like to think your teen is taking, stats say (unfortunately) they are sending and receiving sexts. 

A 2018 global study found that "One in seven teens report that they are sending sexts, and one in four are receiving sexts." The research is based on the responses of more than 100 000 teens. 

Sadly, there is no app for this one, and parents are advised to deal with the topic the old fashioned way. 

Researchers suggest "parents and caregivers should be proactive, rather than protective and reactive, about talking to their teens about sexting." 

When addressing the topic of sexting with your teen, "emphasise digital citizenship. Broadly, digital citizenship encourages individuals to act in a way that is safe, legal and ethical — in their online and digital interactions and behaviours." 

See more tips on how to talk to your teen about sexting here: Do we really know what our kids are getting up to? 

Compiled for Parent24 by Lesley-Anne Johannes. 

Chat back:

Share your story with us, and we could publish your mail. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Sign up for Parent24's newsletters.

Read more:

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24