Your six-year-old daughter wins a figure skating competition. You photograph it, and share the shot on your social networks. This banal gesture corresponds to “parental sharing” (or “sharenting” in English), and could have more important consequences than anticipated, in particular thanks to the artificial intelligence which facilitates the malicious use of photos.

The arrival of social networks has not only changed the daily lives of young people, but also that of their parents, some of whom share many photos of their children on social networks. This phenomenon has been given the name “sharenting”, a contraction of the words “share” and “parenting”.

Parents must now be aware of the risks of this practice, according to René Morin, spokesperson for the Canadian Center for Child Protection, which set up the Cyberaide website, the Canadian center for reporting cases of exploitation. child sexual abuse on the internet.

“There is no child who is immune to the possibility that images of him or her circulating on the internet, on social media or elsewhere, will be taken over by malicious people to do something else. something,” says Morin. And this is something that we are already starting to see, and that we feel condemned to see more and more because of artificial intelligence. »

Emmanuelle Parent, PhD in communication, and co-founder of CIEL (Centre for Online Emotional Intelligence), points out that the Center now addresses “parental sharing” in its workshops offered to children aged 10 to 12, by addressing the subject of privacy.

CIEL teaches them in particular that if one of their friends publishes a photo on which they do not “find themselves attractive”, they have the right to ask them to remove it. And that if the person doesn’t, they should tell an adult.

Unfortunately, new technological tools are also used by malicious people.

“People with child sexual inclinations have always been, and continue to be, very quick to embrace any new technological innovations that will enable them to achieve their ends,” Morin points out.

While in the spring of 2021, Cybertip received several reports of child pornography photos created using software like Photoshop, it is now artificial intelligence that is used by predators.

“They can now produce much more material, much faster, and of a much higher quality than they could have obtained by manipulating photos with photo editing software,” explains Morin.

But do not panic. “The idea here is not necessarily to alarm parents, but to make them aware of this possibility,” adds the spokesperson for the Canadian Center for Child Protection.

Although there are “very serious” risks to sharing photos of your children on the web, the reality is much more nuanced, says Emmanuelle Parent. Just like when a parent warns his child not to talk to strangers when he is alone in the park, the use of the web requires adequate education about it, illustrates the co-founder of CIEL.

“Now with photos, online sharing, the digital world, we’re learning what the risks are. And unfortunately, not everyone knows that. So when you know the risks, you can take more precautions,” says Parent.

She also points out that social networks bring, despite their negative aspects, “a package of benefits”.

“Social media, for all of its flaws and risks that are important to note, it still allowed a window into the homes of others that can normalize some feelings of, say, isolation among families,” Ms. Parent said. , saying that the education of children was once a part of life linked to intimacy, between the four walls of his home. From now on, virtual groups of parents make it possible to share advice and break this isolation.

She recommends that parents have empathy for their child, questioning the impact of sharing a certain photo. For example, might the child be embarrassed about it later? Emmanuelle Parent also invites parents to reflect on their conception of privacy.

“Besides the social pressure there seems to be of exposing your family online, am I tempted? Could this have consequences for my children, and if so, am I ready to intervene afterwards? “, she says.

René Morin, for his part, encourages parents to be vigilant with regard to people who subscribe to their profile on social networks. Being “friends” on Facebook, for example, with someone you’ve never met, is a risk.

It is also possible to limit the audience that can see a publication, or to make their profile private, by modifying their privacy settings.

If photos of a child have been taken maliciously and inappropriately on the web, it is possible to report them to Cybertip, which redirects the report to the appropriate police force, and which can delete these images from web servers.