Protecting the youngest and weakest

#ShareWithCare – against photos of children online


Capturing great moments with a smartphone is an automatic reflex these days – especially when it comes to children. After all, grandma and grandpa want to experience every (developmental) step of their children up close. And of course, parents are incredibly proud of how cute their little ones are and would love to show the whole world. However, they do this by sharing pictures of their children digitally via messenger services and on social platforms as a matter of course – which can have devastating consequences.

Sharing is okay, but not with the whole world

The internet is and remains a fascinating place. But everyone on the Internet has access to data, photos and personal content – including that of children who do not consent to any of this and are unable to defend themselves. Let’s make one thing clear right away: We know, of course, that parents wouldn’t do anything to harm their children. But by thoughtlessly sharing their most private moments, they do just that. And this is exactly where the “Message from Ella” commercial comes in.

Ella is a young woman who speaks to her parents in Deutsche Telekom’s impressive commercial – from the future. In reality, Ella is only 9 years old, but has been turned into her own version of Deepfake using artificial intelligence. Her message to mom and dad: Be careful with my data online. The possible consequences are ruthlessly laid bare. These range from identity theft and the resulting charges for acts that Ella never committed, to the misuse of children’s photos by paedophiles. Pure horror. Pure horror.

Why are thousands of photos still uploaded online every day? One reason is ignorance on part of the parents. A look at the statistics* reveals that 86% of parents share pictures and videos of their children online. The younger the children are, the more often this happens, as 70% of parents share photos or videos of their children up to the age of 5 via messenger services at least once a week. Worryingly, only a third of parents are aware that a child’s photo can be misused for identity theft. In turn, 85% are sure that the people they send the pictures to will not pass them on. However, a full 65% are not sure exactly what happens to their children’s photos. Perhaps media competence should finally become a school subject?

*) Representative online survey by KB&B Family Marketing Experts. 795 parents of children aged zero to 14 were surveyed. Survey period: July 27 to August 1, 2023.

Shaking things up and forcing a rethink

Nachricht von Ella

Watching the “Message from Ella” creates a really bad gut feeling, because the commercial hits us right in the heart and truly triggers our conscience. That’s a good thing, because only through shocking moments like this that activate triggers that make us reflect and rethink.

[Englischer Spot:] The commercial has now been viewed 2.4 million times on YouTube – and counting.

Even though Ella was created using AI, the threat of “sharenting”, i.e. the thoughtless sharing of children’s photos by parents, is a real problem. Experts even predict that by 2030, two thirds of all cases of identity theft will be related to sharenting (source: The New Yorker). Alarming figures, we think.

#ShareWithCare helps

Deutsche Telekom’s campaign has made headlines and publicized the issue. If you would like to find out more on how to avoid mistakes yourself and protect your children in the best possible way, you can find useful information here:

  • The “Teachtoday” initiative promotes safe and competent media use and supports children and young people, parents and grandparents as well as educational professionals with clever tips and materials from the “Teachtoday Toolbox”.
  • The current issue of the online magazine “Scroller” provides kids aged 9 to 12 with detailed information on the “fascination of AI”.
  • The “Safely digital” guide from Telekom Security GmbH shares expertise on information security and data protection. Simple basic rules for everyday life explain risks on the Internet and provide valuable tips on how to recognize and classify them.
  • The “Germany safe on the net” initiative even issues the DsiN digital driver’s license (DiFü) – a nationally recognized training and certification programme. People of all ages can use it to learn digital usage and security skills and thus stay safe online both privately and professionally.

So, dear parents: Be aware of your responsibility and especially the consequences and refrain from posting children’s photos and videos – no matter how cute the little ones may be. And the grandparents will certainly also be happy to receive a printed and framed photo, won’t they? Ella will thank you for it.

You can find tips on how to handle children’s photos safely here.

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