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Protect your kids from deepfake abuse
When I first learned what a deepfake was, the ramifications for national security were immense. At the time Barack Obama was in office and through my law enforcement friends I heard a rumor of a deepfake video created of the President (by the US) that looked so real it could never be released.
I never imagined that deepfake technology would advance so quickly that kids would be able to access some of the same software through their smartphone app store. And I didn’t foresee thousands of AI fake videos being uploaded to social media for anyone to see. Now deepfake videos pose a greater threat to the average family than national security. Today, anyone can create deepfake videos for sextortion, identity theft, or misinformation.
What is a Deepfake?
A deepfake is media created using artificial intelligence and machine learning to digitally manipulate a person’s likeness with that of someone else which is so realistic it can be accepted as factual. The term is a combination of “deep learning” and “fake”.
Deepfake technology uses a combination of AI and machine learning to create new content from real video and images.
While not perfect, humans can edit the content to look deceptively realistic. With time, software, and computing power it seems nothing is off limits for deepfakes.
While there are many humorous fake videos of actors like Tom Cruise doing things they’d never do, the technology seems to be used more often to influence behavior at a very personal level.
Watch Deepfakes and Kids
What are the dangers of deepfake technology?
Deepfake technology is dangerous to everyone for more reasons than I can count. Terrible people using artificial intelligence can create inappropriate content of violence, child pornography, and spreading misinformation to influence public opinion. And deepfakes are getting better with each passing week, so who knows what the technology will be able to do in a year.
At its core deepfake content is identity theft. If an image of your child is taken from your Facebook page and then placed on a person who harms an animal – their likeness has been stolen. While identity theft often refers to stealing personal information like name, address, and various account numbers, deepfakes cut much deeper as a person’s likeness has been taken for nefarious purposes. This can be used to create false information about a person that may negatively impact their mental health for years.
It feels very personal when someone believes a lie about you. Now how devastating is it when there is a video or picture to convict you in the court of public opinion? Some children and adults may never be able to recover from a fake video of them that is racist, sexist, or worse.
How are deepfakes affecting kids?
As if parenting in the digital age were not hard enough, now we must protect children from watching and creating deepfake content. This type of activity can manifest itself in many ways in your child’s life.
Bullying in person is bad enough, but with the internet, cyberbullying spreads faster and lasts longer. Add to that a deepfake of a child doing something against their morals, faith, or the law, and cyberbullying becomes easily weaponized.
Deepfake technology exists to influence the opinions of people and communities. Using realistic content to push a false narrative makes it very easy for bad people to sway public opinion. Can you imagine a deepfake of your kid’s favorite YouTuber pushing identity theft or fraud?
Trouble Identifying Deepfakes
As before mentioned, this technology is becoming more sophisticated and realistic every week. Children and parents are left to try and understand what information is truthful - which can lead to distrust of authority and apathy toward current events.
It seems like Americans are losing their privacy more and more with each passing day, now AI deepfake technology can aid scammers in misusing personal information at a whole new level.
Predators Appearing as Kids
Bark Technologies posted on Instagram how easy it was to use filters and apps to appear to be younger. This means an adult can use AI technology to appear younger in real time to gain trust and manipulate children.
Fake sexual images can be created to blackmail children and teens for money to avoid the release of the fabricated images. The panic of such a threat may lead to irrational behavior like suicide.
Don’t Create Deepfakes
For now, deepfake content is created by humans. We must teach our kids that it is not acceptable to create false content, even if it’s a private joke. Depending on the laws of your state, deepfakes and the sharing of deepfakes can be illegal. With the creation of The Online Safety Act in the UK, deepfake porn has been criminalized.
Deepfakes and non-consensual pornography
Recently Chris McKenna at Protect Young Eyes wrote an outstanding article about the dangers of deepfakes and specifically how they are used to create non-consensual pornography. In essence, a person can take a real photo of an adult and deepfake it with an existing nude adult photo to create a new, realistic nude photo of that person.
Unfortunately, terrible people can also create AI-generated child sexual abuse content (AIG-CSAM). This means that an innocent photo of a child taken at their birthday party can be used to create a fake image of them in a sexually explicit situation. In November of 2023, a teenager in New Jersey spoke out about how something similar happened to her.
The issue, as Chris points out, is that many of these deepnude sites are not blocked by all parental controls meaning that kids can access it easier than traditional pornography sites. It is worth noting that the Bark app performed well against this type of content. But stopping this behavior starts with parents, which is why it is important to teach your children to stay away from creating and sharing deepfake content.
Ways to Protect Kids from Deepfakes
Fortunately, parents have many options to help protect their kids from the effects of deepfakes. They range from conversations to parental controls.
Parent Tip: Explain Deepfakes
It’s going to be impossible to keep our kids from seeing the effects of negative deepfake videos so it’s better to explain to them what they are. While writing this article I explained deepfakes to my son at the level he needed for his age. I didn’t explain EVERYTHING, but I made him aware that not every video and image he sees online is real and should be accepted as fact.
It may be helpful to show them a video of how deepfakes are made. Here is a news story from The Today Show on Deepfake Tom Cruise that explains the technology and ethics behind these videos.
Parent Tip: Encourage Critical Thinking
People who can engage in critical thinking generally won’t fall for scams and cheap attempts to sway their opinions. Teaching our kids to question what they see before they accept it will help them avoid the pitfalls of deepfakes and generally help them in life.
Parent Tip: Look for Incongruencies
Encourage your kids to look at videos and images for what stands out as being “not quite right”. These incongruent details will help kids better determine what is real and what is fake.
Parent Tip: Monitor Online Activity
Deepfakes are one of a million ways kids can get in trouble online. Set boundaries of what sites and social media platforms are acceptable for them and monitor their actions. Many parents trust Bark Technologies to keep their kids safe online and if you use the code SECUREDAD, you can get 10% off an app subscription.
Parent Tip: Create Kids Profiles
When you feel your kids are ready for social media, make sure they are using kids’ profiles and that their accounts are private. The less they can access and the fewer people who can take their content, the better off they are.
Parent Tip: Limit Photos Online
Myspace and Facebook were once places where we could share what we were doing and how our family was growing. We could post photos of our kids at swim practice or unwrapping Christmas presents. But today, images of our kids can be exploited for terrible reasons. I strongly suggest that you stop sharing photos of your kids’ faces online and delete any old ones that exist. Then set the expectation with your family that they do not share photos of them either.
Conclusion: Deepfakes and Kids
Deepfakes have been around only a few years and look how far they’ve progressed. I don’t want to alarm you, but it’s not going to get better unless they are banned, and law enforcement is given the right tools to prosecute deepfake criminals.
As parents, we must guard against these eventualities by educating, protecting, and helping our kids make responsible digital choices in the future. The last thing that we need to do is think this will never happen to our kids.
Every child is at risk, but every parent is a protector.
If you’d like to know more ways to protect your family online, consider my free guides about the dark web and open-source intelligence.