Friday, 20 April 2018

All the Reasons not to Share your Child's Details Online.


A child in school uniform, with a yellow star over the logo. By details, I mean full name, full birth-date, school, family members, or location, which can include photos with your house or car in the background, or any other identifying features which could pinpoint exactly where he or she lives. Before you think I've gone internet-safety crazy like some kind of social media nosy-neighbour, I promise I will explain, and if you have ever tagged a photo of your child with their full name, which also includes the logo on their school jumper, please take a moment to read. I really would appreciate it, because this is something that really worries me and, each to their own, but I would love it if you could make sure you are aware of these security concerns first.

Your Child's Full Name 


Child identity theft is on the rise and it is a great way for fraudsters to make loan or credit applications, or create a fake credit history for themselves, using your child's details. It's a neat trick, because children don't apply for credit or have much in the way of a financial life, so it can be a long time before the fraud comes to light. It can however, cause massive problems later in life, when they do apply for credit, or even when you want to open a bank account for them. You can prevent it from happening by limiting your child's identifiable details online, such as their full name or date of birth. If they are old enough, talk to them about identity theft and how to avoid it. 

Identifying Your Child's School


This is not a nice thought, but there have been cases of organised gangs kidnapping and selling children to order. Perhaps based on hair colour or ethnicity, for example. As unlikely, but horrible, as that situation is, by posting details of your child's school (particularly along with their name) on social media, you could be increasing that risk. It's not worth it, it takes a second to blur out an image, take off a jumper, or even cover up a badge with something else. Most photo editors, such as the ones on your laptop or phone, will allow you to draw on, or add a sticker to an image. If your social media settings are set to private, it does lessen the risk, but this can be undermined if someone else goes on to share it, who isn't quite so vigilant. I know some say that no one is going to travel specifically to a particular school, just because they see a photo on social media, but predatory gangs are sophisticated and organised. They gather as much detail as they can, because they want to be successful in their attempts and not get caught. If a photo finds its way into their path, with enough detail set out to make their job easier, you are creating a risk you don't need to.

Collage of a child in primary and secondary school uniform, with the logos blurred out.


Tagging Family Members


This one could be linked to identifying your child's school. If you post a photo of a child and then tag members of their family, you could be giving somebody a way to gain your child's trust, when you would rather they didn't. That person can introduce themselves as a friend, or even family member, based on the information they have read and this might leave the child vulnerable to letting their guard down and taking risks, because the person doesn't seem like a stranger. Stranger danger has been widely publicised and warned about since the 70's, and we are not helping our children by handing out information about them to strangers. 

Location


When letting people know your location, you are giving away other information too. If you are at a concert one evening, are you advertising that your children are at home, with someone who could be vulnerable to con artists, or distraction thieves, because they are unfamiliar with your home and its visitors? When you tag yourself dropping your child off at cub camp, are you leaving them vulnerable to unwelcome attention, by letting people know they are somewhere where people don't  necessarily know what you look like? I know this may sound a little far-fetched but it happens. As well as the more obvious concerns about letting people know when you're away and your house is empty, etc. Even if you are confident you have never given away your full address, con men are very clever and skilled at weeding out and piecing together details. A street party here, a photo with a door number in there. Does your village/ housing estate have a Facebook group? These are just a few ways people can find you, so it is always wise not to mention when you are away and give them reason to.

Silhouette of a child picking stones from the shore with sunset behind.


The Bottom Line


I've been a blogger for nearly six years and during that time I have seen the search terms people use when they have eventually landed on mine, and other people's blogs. Obviously, there is nothing untoward on my blog, but sometimes a perfectly innocent blog post can attract really unpleasant search terms. To explain a bit more about internet searches, I will briefly hand over to Emily from A Mummy Too, who explains it so much better than me: "When you type search terms into Google, it tries to find the most relevant pages for your search, which is based of course on the words you use. Sometimes, if a person was searching for, say, "knife murder tips" then they could, theoretically, land on a site where you talk about a toy review, saying that you had to open the packaging with a KNIFE, some TIPS for how to get it started and that your child screamed blue MURDER when you tried to take it away. In this way, nasty searches can lead to innocent pages. Website owners can't see most of the search terms used by an individual to find our site due to privacy rules, but they can see anonymised data in some places provided by Google, and that's when they might spot how an unpleasant search term led to their blog."  So when we see these horrible search terms come up in our blog data, sometimes pertaining to children, we know categorically that these people exist. As bloggers, we see the evidence. Some people say that it's so low-risk, it doesn't matter and it won't happen to them. These are probably the same people who lock their windows, even the tiny one, on the third floor, or lock their car, even when it's in the garage. Because the tiny risk of someone breaking in is worth taking seriously, however unlikely it is. Please consider the risks you can avoid when posting pictures and information about your children online, it only takes a few minutes.


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9 comments

Our Fairytale Adventure said...

I am very careful about details of location when it comes to posting online and won't even post photos if a numberplate or road name is in the background if we are close to our local area. It is scary how many people use such small snippets of information for the most horrid of reasons. Great post with some ideas I didn't consider previously, especially about fraud.

Jonathan Gutteridge said...

100% agree with this post. It's shocking just how easy parents seem to shovel this stuff onto social media without thinking longterm of any trouble it might cause!

Lauren Porter said...

I never realised about the Google search terms! It's all so scary & so awful that we should have to worry about such things :( I hope lots of people take note x

Helen J said...

This is such a worrying topic for me and something I am very aware of as a blogger. I only share partial photos of my children's faces and always try to keep our whereabouts unknown. The internet world can be such a scary place!

Laura - Dear Bear and Beany said...

I'm really careful what I share online with my children and protect them every way that I can.

Attachment Mummy said...

Absolutely! It amazes me what people share online. Might as well put a big sign over the house saying 'we are on holiday, please burgle us', the same for their kids. Scary stuff.

Kim Carberry said...

I am careful about what I share online. Thankfully my girls have different surnames to me which means they can't be found through me. It is scary about the internet searches. I shudder when I see how some people have found my blog. x

Wandermust Family said...

I really agree with you on this. I am very careful and don't reveal name etc

The Newhouse Family Blog said...

The amount of friends on my FB who share pictures of their kids in school uniform and have their profile as public scares the hell out of me! With school places having just been allocated too, I've seen lots of "Oh yay Timmy got a place at *****" recently. x

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