Experts Want Parents to Know of the Hidden Dangers of Posting Those 'Back to School' Photos


back to school

We all know parents who litter their Facebook feeds with tons of pictures of their kids on the first day of school. We love seeing little ones on the bus, showing off their new backpack, or even hanging with some new pals they made. And although we know there is nothing better than a good back-to-school pic, experts are now urging parents to be careful what they post, warning that without taking the proper precautions you might be allowing your kids to be vulnerable to predators online.

  • According to Raj Samani, chief scientist at the cyber security company McAfee, the risks for not properly protecting your kids online are high.

    back to school
    Evgeny Atamanenko/Facebook

     Samani told The Daily Mail that although parents should of course be proud of their kid's first day, it's important to play it smart when you post things online.

    "These sorts of images can be used to gather personal information such as school, location, a child’s full name, or even birth dates to paint a picture of who they are," he explained. "Parents must think twice about what they share on social media, their privacy settings and who they allow in their social network -- before it is too late."

    But if you're guilty of sharing a photo without considering the risks first, have no fear. Samani also gave The Daily Mail five helpful things every parent can do to protect their child's identity before they hit "share."

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  • Consider what's in the photo before you post.

    kids first day of school

    Are their identifying objects in the photo that could lead someone to know too much about your child? If your child is wearing a school uniform, their birth date or home address is visible, there are financial details, or if a password can be seen in the photo, then you might be giving too much vulnerable information away. Samani recommends parents asking themselves if they'd be OK with a stranger seeing that photo of their child. If not, it's best to save that one for the group text.  

  • Disable geo-tagging on your photo.

    woman typing on phone
    suwan promlang/Shutterstock

    We know it's tempting to tag your photos, especially if your child is making the leap to a new school. But Samani said that this is probably not the best choice if you're looking to keep your child's identity safe. Many social networks will automatically tag the location in your photo once you upload it, so parents should make sure to turn this feature off before posting. He explained that this goes double if you are posting pictures while away from home. 

  • Maximize your privacy setting on social media.

    social media

    Most of your Facebook friends will be just that -- friends. But sometimes we add people we know through work, loose social connections, or sometimes distant relatives that we haven't seen in a long time. Samani said that it's important that parents share their photos with their intended audience, which is most likely close friends and family. You can manually change who your photos can be shared with ( privately or publicly) but he warned that parents should always consider what they post online to be public. Even if you delete the photo later, he said, that doesn't mean the picture is gone forever. 

  • Set ground rules with your friends and family on what is OK to post.

    Girl back to school
    Africa Studio/Shutterstock

    It's OK if you need to have a conversation with grandma and grandpa before they show off pictures of their grandkids. Be clear about what you've decided are the limitations of what you want shared online, or even give over-eager family members the helpful hints above so that they know how to post photos as securely as possible. 

    Samani explained that even though these conversations can sometimes be uncomfortable, it's better to have them before someone shares a photo of your child and puts that child at risk.

  • Ask for consent to post a photo if it's not your child.

    friends at school

    If you're taking a photo of your child and a pal on the first day back, it's important to get the permission of all parents involved before you share. Be prepared for parents to say no, Somani warned, and be respectful if a parent says they don't want any pictures posted. It's important to remember that this is someone else's digital reputation and to keep in mind that everyone has rules on what is or is not OK to share.