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Parents urged privacy check before sharing back-to-school photos

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, February 8, 2024

As the 2024 school year is underway, Police encourage parents and carers to take privacy precautions before posting back-to-school photos online.

Many families use the beginning of the school year as an opportunity to share photos of their children wearing their uniforms, at their school or with other identifying features.

Police acknowledge that sharing these milestones is important to families, but parents and carers should think about who may be able to access these images and more importantly the information that may be found within the images.

Detective Senior Sergeant Kepal Richards said, “While cases of images being used inappropriately are rare, they do happen. And there are instances where innocent images are used in child exploitation material or offenders use information from the images, like school logos, to identify and groom children.”

“Videos and live streaming can also be included in this, as an offender may capture an image themselves. This is called ‘capping.’ We urge parents and carers to be aware of the risks and be proactive with online safety to keep their information and children safe.”

Ways to ensure online safety

  • Before sharing images, double-check there are no identifying features such as school uniforms and logos, school buildings or signs, and street signs. If this is unavoidable, parents can easily edit and blur school logos and signs.
  • We recommend that parents and carers research and understand app settings, including privacy settings. This could include turning off location settings or setting profiles to private/friends only.
  • If another person is taking photos of your child, discuss how the photos may be used and how they may be shared.
  • Keeping your child’s personal information including full name and age private. This can also include what year they may be starting as this can indicate age.
  • Seek help and support, and report inappropriate or suspicious behaviour online.

Concern across the world

Online safety and the impact social media has on children’s well-being have been a topic of discussion around the world. While posting images safely is a crucial aspect of online safety, teenagers are exposed to many threats like bullying, and blackmail, exposure to violent or inappropriate content. Most of all, living a life which is constantly being watched by their peers adds to various mental health issues and pressure for today’s youth.

A few days ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg appeared before a Senate committee and was pressed into apologizing to parents who said their children died by suicides or drug overdoses that would not have happened without social media.

Mr Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO and majority owner, was met by audible whispering sounds when he entered the hearing room. Over several hours, he faced intense questioning from lawmakers about child safety and whether the company was investing in enough resources to safeguard children and teenagers.

“No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered,” Mr Zuckerberg told the parents.

A former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, alleged various problems at the company including negative impacts on teen mental health when she leaked corporate documents to The Wall Street Journal in 2021, leading to a series called, “The Facebook Files.”

Tips for signing children up to social media safely

Make sure you have taught your child the online safety basics before they start using social media. Our five tips to help your child thrive online:

  1. Keep it locked: Show your child how to set a PIN or password to protect their devices, accounts and private information.
  2. Keep it private: Make sure your child does not disclose personal information like their address and that they know how to keep their profiles private
  3. Keep it helpful: Explain to your child that what they do online leaves a digital footprint so they should think twice about what they are doing – before they do it
  4. Keep it real: Talk to your child about how to handle approaches from strangers and why sometimes people pretend to be someone else online
  5. Keep it friendly: Teach your child to be kind and respectful online, and to be careful talking to, or sharing information with, people they do not know

Before letting your child get started with using social media make sure they know about the online safety basics. This should include how to create a strong password, what information to protect online (including passwords, personal information, payment details etc), as well as discussing the concept of a digital footprint.

Set boundaries and expectations

It is important you understand more about the online activities and experiences your child has or wants to explore. Talk to them about what they do online, how they use devices and to whom they are talking. Take the time to tune in to the conversation – what might seem like just a game to you might be the way your child is connecting and interacting with people they do not know. Also, consider discussing screen time and how much time spent on the app or platform is appropriate.

Check-in regularly

Research shows that parents are critical to the success of young people becoming safe, confident and capable in their use of digital technology. Regular proactive conversations at home help to minimise the damage if things do go wrong online. It is important to let your child know that they can talk to you about anything that happens to them online and that you will be there to support them no matter what.

Check in with your child often about their social media life and be on the lookout for any negative changes in behaviour. Behaviour to look out for could include changes to their mood or refusing to go to school. Visit our Online Bullying for Parents page for more advice.

Click here to download Netsafe’s Parent toolkit and other resources.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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