The Alberta RCMP is asking parent to take precaution as their kids head back to school this year and back-to-school photos become a bit more common.
As class comes into session, it is common to see photos of children posted to social media to commemorate the start of the school year. It has become increasingly common for parents to share images of their children alongside boards or placards outlining fun facts and personal details about them.
Information often includes the child’s name, age, school, grade, favourite colour or activity, and more. While the intentions behind these images are innocent, posting these personal details to social media can risk the safety and privacy of our little ones.
The personal information often included in these photos can be used by individuals to identify, find, and build a false sense of trust or security with a child. A stranger could approach a youth, list their personal details, and claim they know their parents or are a trustworthy adult, when it is in fact untrue.
To avoid such risks, the Alberta RCMP encourages both parents and children to keep in mind the following safety tips:
- Do not post images to social media that include the name of the school your child attends.
- Ensure photos are taken outside of undisclosed locations and do not include visible addresses, such as house numbers or street addresses.
- Avoid posting specific details about your child. Simply include a sign that reads something like "First Day of School" instead. Or keep these types of posters off the web entirely.
- If you are posting photos of children in general, ensure your online privacy settings are set to maximize security.
- Speak with children about online safety and have parental monitor software or ensure parental security settings are in place on their social media accounts.
- Have conversations with your kids about stranger danger and outline safety plans with them, i.e., establish safe words, identify trusted adults, etc.
- Do not give out personal information online or share details including your last name, address, school, etc. on your social media profiles.
- Have a parent review photos or videos before posting them online.
- If you feel uncomfortable with online activity or interactions, or are unsure if they are safe, tell a parent or trusted adult.
“We want to ensure that the start of this school year is a safe one. By being aware of the photos and details we are posting online, we can reduce the risk of our children’s personal details being used to exploit their safety and well-being,” said Cst. Lauren Mowbray, Alberta RCMP. “Children look to us as adults to act in their best interest – both online and in their day-to-day lives.”