Police warn parents of the tendency to over-share “school photos” on social media

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As students adjust to back-to-school this fall, members of law enforcement and online safety experts are reminding parents to be cautious about the information they share on social media. It could allow predators access to children and scammers access to personal information.

“We are not saying Not to share, ”Deputy Sheriff Tim Creighton of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office in Woodstock, Illinois recently told Fox News Digital.

“I have people to date on my feeds. They are sharing too much information.”

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“Less is more,” he said. “Your close friends and family know the important details of your children, like the city they live in, the school they go to, their full name. Strangers don’t need to know.”

Last month, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office shared a viral Facebook photo of Creighton that demonstrates exactly what he means. He held up a sign intended to celebrate the first day of school, one that shared too much personal information.

“It’s that time of year!” the sheriff’s office titled the picture.

“Do not give any information to predators, scammers or thieves that can be used to harm your children, your family or your finances.”

The first notice was posted on Aug. 8, 2021 – and was shared by 135,000 Facebook users.

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“It protects the child, but we also did it for the parents,” Creighton told Fox News Digital in 2021.

“Many people commented [how] they never, ever thought about it … It was an important safety message created in an engaging way. “

Creighton, who is also a school resources manager, told Fox News Digital that the viral image was publicly posted and reposted to remind parents and caregivers to “think before you share.”

Deputy Sheriff Tim Creighton of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office takes selfies with students on the first day of school in Illinois on Aug. 23, 2022.
(Deputy Sheriff Tim Creighton / McHenry County Sheriff’s Office)

“Cyber ​​security, Internet passwords, fraud, sex trafficking – there’s a lot,” Creighton said of various reasons why some details should be left out.

The Facebook snapshot shows Creighton holding a poster titled “My First Day of School”.

The left side shares fictitious information, such as the child’s name, age, grade, teacher, and school name. The image on the right side has those fuzzy personal details, clearly suggesting it’s not safe to include these details in an image shared on social media.

“Your close friends and family know the important details of your children, like the city they live in, the school they go to, their full name. Strangers don’t need to know.”

– Deputy Sheriff Tim Creighton

Creighton said the following details should be omitted when sharing photos or updates on life throughout the school year and beyond: school name, age, teacher’s name and grade, identifying characteristics (height, weight, etc.) and excessively personal information such as password or security question answer.

“This information … can all be used by predators, scammers and other people looking to endanger your child, your family or your finances,” says the Facebook caption.

“Regardless of your privacy settings or friends list, it’s best to keep personal information on the Internet to a minimum.”

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Often, people use the child’s name, date of birth, and other information in passwords, Creighton said. Identity theft can occur if too much is given away online.

To amplify this year’s message about internet safety, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office created a new post in August. Advise parents what to look for in their children’s Instagram accounts to ensure privacy.

He shared these tips:

1. Is the account private and not visible to those who are not approved followers?

2. What is the child’s username? Does it provide important information?

3. How many followers do the kids have and who are they following? Are they strangers or people they know in real life?

4. Is their profile picture appropriate for their age? Does it provide important information? This is visible to the public no matter what happens.

5. What information is there in their bio? This information is also visible to the public.

Donna Rice Hughes is an internet safety expert and president and CEO of Enough Is Enough, based in Reston, Virginia, a nonprofit group that is trying to maximize internet safety for children and prevent online exploitation. .

Hughes echoed the sheriff’s office advice, warning families not to over-share (for both children and parents), even if accounts are set to “private”.

“Sharing personally identifiable information about a child on social media can have unintended consequences, including being used by a sexual predator or trafficker to track down or harm a child,” Hughes told Fox News Digital.

“In addition to using privacy settings and parental controls, parents are encouraged to teach their children to be as anonymous as possible in the digital world. [They should] they model the same behavior themselves and create an atmosphere of trust and responsibility with their child by communicating regularly about device use and online relationships. “

Enough Is Enough shared a safety message on its webpage, encouraging families to use parental controls as an additional layer of protection on all Internet-enabled devices, including “smartphones, computers, tablets and gaming systems”.

The organization said parents can use parental control tools to do the following:

1. Set filters to block inappropriate content, including pornography.

2. Set up monitoring / accountability tools to track app usage, website visits, email, messaging, and other Internet activity. Monitoring also provides detailed reports on the child’s online activities.

3. Set time limits.

4. Block inappropriate apps or games.

5. Set up parent-approved lists of friends and players to limit who your child can communicate with.

Deputy Sheriff Tim Creighton poses with students in Illinois.  Creighton is a school resource manager and visits schools to talk to children about social media, internet safety, and the danger of strangers.

Deputy Sheriff Tim Creighton poses with students in Illinois. Creighton is a school resource manager and visits schools to talk to children about social media, internet safety, and the danger of strangers.
(Deputy Sheriff Tim Creighton / McHenry County Sheriff’s Office)

In September On December 18, 2022, award-winning national tech collaborator Kurt Knutsson, aka The CyberGuy, appeared on “Fox & Friends Weekend” to address “sharing,” the practice of sharing between parents their children’s photos and videos on social media.

Not only can excessive sharing of details about children and their schools potentially harm them, but Knutsson agreed that revealing too much about birthday parties, football matches, etc. can present problems.

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“Sharing [is] this idea that was coined and that has to do with parents, “said Knutsson.” Great technology really just taught us to take pictures, upload them constantly, share moments of our children, the life of our whole family “.

Some parents, Knutsson said, may take sharing “to the extreme” and many don’t realize the dangers or risks that could be involved.

“From the lower end, there are advertisers using AI software. They’re building profiles of every human they can get their hands on to understand, ‘Wow, how can we get Rachel? How can we get Rachel’s kids to respond to what do we want to sell as advertisers? ‘”he said.

“We get it … Technology advances and that’s part of life. But then you have the fact that that artificial intelligence software is now on the black market and the dark web, where people now on the bad side of it are using it to build profiles of people and they don’t care how old they are. “

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Knutsson said the software has the ability to go “specific crazy”.

This technology then detects where a person lives or where and when a child attends sports, for example.

Deputy Sheriff Tim Creighton poses like it's his first day of school in 2021 to show parents what they shouldn't reveal about their kids, as it could potentially make them a target for predators and online scammers.  The McHenry County Sheriff's Office shared this image on Facebook in August 2022 as an important safety reminder.

Deputy Sheriff Tim Creighton poses like it’s his first day of school in 2021 to show parents what they shouldn’t reveal about their kids, as it could potentially make them a target for predators and online scammers. The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office shared this image on Facebook in August 2022 as an important safety reminder.
(McHenry County Sheriff’s Office)

Knuttson offered these important tips: use antivirus protection, avoid sharing every moment related to your children, check your social media privacy settings, and ask your loved ones to stop sharing or ask your permission before sharing information and / or photos of your child.

Creighton agreed.

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“Even your friends may not have the same privacy settings as you,” Creighton said, adding that parents should remind grandparents to check their privacy settings before resharing a post or picture.

“You may have pretty strict security settings, but they [might not] – so be careful “

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