I am not a parent so would not tell anyone how to be a parent or protect their child from internet dangers.
However the dangers, however remote, are very real and in bringing this issue to your attention I hope you will consider how you display your child or childrens photos while online dating.
As a dating website owner I often see parents proudly displaying their childrens photo’s on their dating profile. These are usually holiday shots, as that is a happy time you spent with your children and of course you want to show the world your wonderful family.
In reality this in itself poses no threat to the safety of your children, you have ensured you did not mention anything that can be used to trace you on your profile and even if people know what town you live in they are unlikely to go searching around for your particular children.
The problems begin to emerge when you start to get comfortable chatting to someone or to a group in a forum or chatroom.
Please carefully consider these 5 reasons not to put your childs photo on your dating profile where all the world can see them.
1. Online Predators
They are not lurking on every website you visit and their numbers are limited but they do exist. Predators often chat like normal people, they read the safety information too so are unlikely to ignore you and simply ask about your children. However someone that seems genuinely interested in you may casually ask the names of your children, their age or what town you live in. These are natural questions I would also ask a parent but someone with bad intentions can soon glean a lot of information.
Here is an example for you to consider (not a real one and I have used a picture of a child from a non English speaking country freely available on the net):
The parent simply states that her daughter is called Cindy and gives no further information, so no danger there right?
Wrong, it took me 43 seconds with some computer software to find this.
It could have been a number 43 bus or a shop name in the background but if someone wanted to find that child and turn up at school saying “Hi Cindy your Mum sent me to pick you up”, research shows that children are far more trusting if an adult knows their name.
2. Children’s Privacy
Your children want you to be happy, they are desperate for you to be happy but they don’t necessarily want the whole school looking at their photo on a dating site. School kids can be very cruel, as I’m sure we all remember and it just takes your friend to mention in front of his/her kids that you are on a particular dating site and children are bound to go looking.
Children will defend you and see it as your right to look for happiness but if their friends tell them that they are on the photos they will never live it down.
Consider your children’s privacy, they are people in their own right, so ask them if they mind you putting a photo of them on a dating site.
3. Your Children Aren’t Dating
Your profile states that you have children but people initially want to get to know you as an individual, they are not looking to date your children. In any new serious relationship the new partner must be able to get on with your children but this should not be done from day one.
Take time to get to know each other and if you decide to take your relationship further then begin the process of introducing your new partner and children.
4. Your Ex Partner
Is your ex partner aware that their child or children’s photos are being displayed on a dating website? Divorce can often lead to feelings of “I don’t care what they think” but if that parent is still involved with the children then should their feelings about where their children’s photos are shown not be taken into consideration?
For further information about protecting your child(ren) while online dating please read the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (ceopc) website. It is aimed at keeping your child safe while they are using the internet but there is some sobering information in there and of course if you feel someone online is taking an unusual interest in your children then this gives information for where to report it.
You can also report people you are suspicious of on the Think You Know website. This is run in conjunction with the ceopc website. Please do not only think about yourself, if you feel someone is asking too many questions about your children or shows more interest in getting to know them rather than you then please help protect other parents and report it. Better a red faced innocent person than the alternative.