Internet Scare Article of the Day

The NY Times had a ridiculous article the other day designed to make parents afraid of the internet all over again.

"Guardians of Their Smiles" dared to ask the question "Is it safe to post children's images on online photo sites?" You just know what the answer is going to be from the illustrating photo--a grim-faced mommy clutching her Macbook tightly to her chest, while in the soft-focus distance behind her a child peers into another laptop. Danger Will Robinson We Must Help the Mommy Protect Her Young!

The article is pure parenting hysteria (cyber edition). It contains exactly two examples of the horrors that can result in putting children's pictures online. The first is of the sternly visaged Jessica Gwozdz, whose picture illustrates the article. It seems that some Brazilian teenaged girls, in a "gut-churning prank," took pictures of her daughters to create “paper doll” profiles at the social networking site Orkut, "giving each other 'sexy' ratings depending on the quality of their work." Gwozdz found out when a family friend saw the profiles. She notified Orkut and profiles were removed. "Such is the stuff of parents’ nightmares," the Times intones.

The remainder of the article contains no evidence of danger from putting children's photos lonline. It does however have a steady stream of parents expressing a weird kind of smug paranoia. Quote after quote:

What’s to stop a pedophile from putting two and two together?

To me, a picture posted on the Internet is a big piece of information. I cringe when I see what people post.

I wouldn’t even post a picture of my son from behind if he were naked.

You should not have any photos of your children on the Internet at all!

If you want to post pictures of my kids online, you’d better ask me first (so I can say no!)

Near the end of the article there are some brief quotes from people who have actually done research on things like the internet and pedophilia who point out that these fears are completely unfounded:

“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.”

So why isn't the title and tone of this article "Irrational Techno-Panic Frightens Helicopter Parents?" Because after all, the Times was not able to come up with a single instance of anything bad happening as a result of posting pictures online!

There is so much paranoia and misinformation out there about privacy and the internet. It is sad to see our leading newspaper adding to people's fear and ignorance.