Are you aware of the dangers of social media? Are you putting your child at risk by simply posting a photo on your Facebook page? Many parents enjoy sharing pictures, milestones, and updates regarding their children on their social pages. What some people may not know is the danger that comes with the uploading of images and posts.

A mother wants to document their child’s first day of school, so they take a photo of their son in front of the school sign and post “Timmy’s first day of school!” Now, if your profile is public you just released your child’s image, name, and school to a perfect stranger. What is to stop someone from approaching the school as children are exiting and going up to your child and saying “Hi Timmy, your mommy (insert mother’s name that the potential predator now has) asked me to pick you up today. I am her friend from (insert place of employment or social group the predator knows about the mother from her profile) and she told me she needed me to bring you home today.”

Depending on your child’s understanding of strangers, this could easily turn into a kidnapping situation. How do we find that fine line between sharing precious information with our friends and placing our children in danger? The dangers of social media are vast. The first step to protecting your child from online predators is to understand the risks.

What are we posting on social media that is putting your child at risk?

  • Any pictures of what school and what grade your child is in.
  • Pictures of your child in a sports uniform. It is very easy for a predator to locate where your child plays soccer/basketball/t-ball, especially if the team name is on their uniform.
  • Posting your child’s date of birth. Wishing your child happy birthday and stating how old they are on your social media page just gives a stranger your child’s first/last name, age, and exact date of birth. You just opened them up to possible identity theft.
  • Sharing any inappropriate image of your child could be appealing to a predator.
  • Publicly posting any image of your child can lead to this image being stolen and used by strangers.
  • If you post enough photos around our residence or at locations close by, it becomes fairly easy for a person to locate your neighborhood and soon enough your address. If you always have your location settings turned on, then people can know exactly where you are.
  • If you go to a fairly crowded place (park, zoo, entertainment venue) and check-in via Facebook, a stranger now knows your exact location. They are already armed with images of your child and could easily locate and interact with them.

How do we keep our children safe from social media predators?

The simple answer would be to not post images or information regarding your children anywhere on social media. However, knowing the point of social media is to share information about your life and most parents are proud of their children and want to share with their friends and family.

I would suggest making your profile as private as can be. Placing a watermark on your images can also help prevent them from being stolen. Only share information with people you know. This can be done on Facebook by going to your privacy settings and creating a group of friends/family that you can specifically share your images and posts regarding your children. This would allow you to prohibit other social friends from accessing this content. Only accept friends you know in real life on your social media accounts. You can also use apps like Lifecake, Shutterfly or create a private album that is shareable on your iPhone that will only go to people you grant access.

When it comes to your children and their security, how far will you go to protect them?