Aug 15, 2023
First day of school photo frames, props, can reveal too much info
As summer beings to wind down and school starts once again, social media platforms are flooded with back-to-school photos of smiling kids in their best outfits posted by proud parents. Accompanied by
As summer beings to wind down and school starts once again, social media platforms are flooded with back-to-school photos of smiling kids in their best outfits posted by proud parents.
Accompanied by captions celebrating the start of 4th grade at So-And-So Elementary or props written on colorful paper sharing a child’s age or class name, these seemingly harmless pictures can be a joy for friends and family to see. They also have the potential to put private information about you or your child at risk.
“We have the best of intentions, but not everybody who sees these pictures and these posts and these videos will have the best of intention, so we've got to really guard against, the bad actors online,” Donna Rice Hughes, President and CEO of Enough Is Enough, a nonprofit organization that focuses on making the internet safer for children and families, told USA TODAY. “As a general rule, don't share any what we call personally identifiable information.”
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According to Hughes, this term can refer to anything posted online that gives viewers hints about someone's personal life, such as where they live, their name, age, etc. In the case of common back-to-school posts, this can include:
“It's ok to say that the child is in the first grade or the fifth grade, but not where he or she goes to school, etc.,” Hughes said. “Ask yourself those questions: Is there anything in the picture or the video that would help someone who could be dangerous or harmful to my child find out information about my child that I don't want that person to know?”
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“It's important because again, bad actors…including predators, traffickers, bullies and any type of identity thief…. we don't want any of these bad actors to be able to identify where that child is and how to be able to get to that child,” said Hughes.
This means not only being aware of what you as a parent, friend or loved one posts online about your family, but teaching kids how to be smart with their own sharing.
“Help them to think very critically," Hughes said. "Is there something in this picture about me, or even somebody that they may be sharing about, like one of their friends, that could put them at risk to someone who could be dangerous?”
She suggests parents not only set up filtering and monitoring tools to assist them in keeping track of children's online activity but giving kids the tools to keep themselves safe online as well.
Hughes said the last point is one she considers most important. While implementing monitoring tools that tell you about your kids online habits and applying content-blocking filters are great practices, nothing beats instilling internet literacy and fostering a safe environment for serious discussions.
“Having regular conversations with your kids about what they're doing and how they're using technology is one of the most important proactive things that you can do,” said Hughes.
Building an atmosphere of trust that lets kids know you are a safe, reasonable person to come to is key, she said. She suggests showing kids that, no matter what, you will not shame them or overreact and, instead, will listen and work through experiences and concerns alongside them.
“That way, then you become the safe person and that's so important. You can help mitigate so many problems if you just keep those lines of communication open with your kid,” said Hughes.Why school start dates are so different:School lunch prices spike: