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Home | Insights | 3 Reasons to Rethink the First Day of School Photos

3 Reasons to Rethink the First Day of School Photos

Dear Savvy,

I recently posted photos of my kiddos on their first day of school on Facebook—I enjoy sharing their big days with friends and family! I have my privacy settings pretty locked down, so was alarmed when a family member reached out and suggested that I edit the photos so as not to include the name of their teacher. Her worry was that with the names of the teachers included on the signs they were holding in the photos, it would be too easy for someone with bad intent to find my kids. I went ahead and edited my photos, but I’m still wondering is she right, or is that paranoia talking? Please help!

–K.A.

Dear K.A.,

Great question! Thank you for sending it my way. The short answer is that your family member is right—sharing that kind of information on social media is potentially dangerous, and editing your photos was a good idea.

I’ll explain more below, but before you beat yourself up, know that we ALL make safety mistakes, including me(!) After receiving your question, I went back and looked at the first-day photos I had just posted and realized I had made an even bigger goof! I also have my kiddos hold small signs for the new year, and this year I realized that for some unknown reason, for the first time ever, I included the names of their schools. Doh!

I might as well have said, “Hello, Predator! Here’s my kid!”

Needless to say, I immediately archived my post until I could edit the photos to black out the school names. Whoops.

Is this paranoia talking, as you ask? My answer is no. Here’s why:

Privacy settings are a misnomer. Companies like Facebook like to call them privacy settings, but the reality is that they only visibility settings, and not very reliable ones at that. Anything you put on a digital device—computer, cell phone, tablet, laptop, etc.—should be considered both public and permanent. You simply lose control of what happens to it once it is on that device/medium. Even with privacy settings “locked down,” folks on your friends list can often share a post and can always save a photo to post elsewhere for their own reasons. Grandparents often reshare photos of their grandkids, for example, and others comment on photos, thus potentially opening it up to their friends list and others to see, depending on their privacy settings. It is virtually impossible to police the social media circles of everyone you know.

While most child sexual abuse occurs at the hands of someone known to you or your child, there are in fact bad people on the internet who are after your child, my child, all our children. Don’t play right into their hands by making it easy-peasy to find your kid. Even people you are acquainted with—people known to you or to your child—may use social media posts you make to glean information that facilitates abuse in one way or another.

The problem is actually much bigger than whether you should or shouldn’t share the name of your child’s teacher or the school they attend. Too often, without realizing it, we are sharing information about our children on social media that, if compiled—and there are data-mining companies currently working on compiling it—would provide enough identifying information to steal their identity. And they are doing this completely legally at this point, says Leah Plunkett, J.D. and author of Sharenthood. The digital footprint we are creating, often unwittingly, for our children is immense. Second, is the issue of consent. We are creating life histories for our children online where we share their every failure and triumph—usually without their permission. Is that fair to them? Will they resent us for it later, and if that’s a possibility, what say-so should they have in the sharing of their photos and stories? This issue is complex, but at least one worth thinking about and learning about.

So should you take down every photo you’ve ever posted of your kids? That’s not the point of this answer, and that is a decision that only you get to make. If you are going to post, here are some things to consider:

  1. Are you sharing stories and information about your kids that, if the roles were reversed, you’d be okay with them sharing about you?
  2. Do you give your children veto power before posting?
  3. Are you sharing any private, identifying information that could be used by a sexual predator, an identity thief, or a data miner?
  4. Have you removed geotagging or any other features that would make it particularly easy for someone to identify where the photo was taken and thus locate your child?
  5. Is there a safer way to share what you want to share with the people you really want to share it with?

We all have to make the choices right for us; making sure they are informed choices is always wise, however. For example, I don’t share pictures of my family on my website, I don’t tell stories that are theirs to tell in these newsletters, and I’m very conservative in what I post on social media. I still make mistakes, though, as this little snafu so clearly demonstrated. Have you made any safety mistakes lately?

Heartfully,

–Christy, Savvy Parents Safe Kids

Christy Keating fun headshot

Christy Keating is a certified parent coach,  positive discipline educator, and motivational speaker. She is the founder and CEO of The Heartful Parent Collective, which includes Heartful Parent Coaching, Savvy Parents Safe Kids, and Heartful Parent Academy.

The mother of two amazing daughters, Christy strives to build a happier, healthier world - one child, one parent, and one family at a time.

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