Fully, 92% of U.S. toddlers have a digital footprint, which is the highest among the countries studied by Internet security company AVG. Overall, the percentage was 81%, with the five European countries in the study having the lowest percentage, 73%.
AVG surveyed 2,200 mothers with children under the age of two in the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The poll was conducted the week of Sept. 27.
The survey found that the children's online footprint started on average at around six months of age, with a third having photos and other information posted online within weeks of being born. In addition, 7% of babies and toddlers had email addresses set up by their parents, and 5% had a social network profile.
Almost a quarter of the moms in the study uploaded their prenatal sonogram scans to the web. Canada had the highest percentage at 37%, followed by the U.S., 34%. Japanese moms were the least likely to post such photos, with only 14% having done so.
The findings were "shocking" in children born today are likely to begin their online presence before they can walk, and have that digital record continue to build throughout their lives, AVG Chief Executive J.R. Smith said. In comparison, people who are 30 years old today have online footprints stretching back only 10 to 15 years at most.
Also troubling was the fact that the mothers surveyed on average were only moderately concerned about the amount of online information available on their children. On a scale of one to five, with five being "very concerned," the moms on average rated their concern at 3.5.
While it's understandable why most proud parents are anxious to upload and share images of their little bundles of joy, moms and dads should think deeply about the digital footprint they're starting for their children, and take into consideration what their babies will think of the information posted when they grow up, Smith said.
In addition, Smith advised parents to use the privacy settings on social networks or photo-sharing sites to keep from public view information that could prove valuable to identity thieves in the future, such as birth dates, middle names, etc.
When asked what motivated them to post images of their babies online, more than 70% of the mothers surveyed said it was to share them with friends and family. However, more than a fifth in the U.S. said they wanted to add content to their social network profiles, while 18% said they were following their peers.