A number of police services across Canada have been reaching out to parents this week with messages about online safety for kids heading back to school.
The RCMP alerted parents and guardians about the dangers of revealing personal information through online and social media posts, particularly those with back-to-school photos or placards showing “fun facts” about students.
“The personal information often included in these photos can be used by individuals to identify, find, and build a false sense of trust or security with a child,” the RCMP said in a release.
“A stranger could approach a youth, list their personal details, and claim they know their parents or are a trustworthy adult, when it is in fact untrue.”
Safety tips from the federal police service suggested your child’s school, visible addresses in photos, and any other details about your child be avoided.
Hamilton Police Service spokesperson Cst. Krista-Lee Ernst told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton that school does bring milestones that “should be celebrated and shared” but says it’s safest when they are kept “simple.”
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“These details could be used by a stranger to approach a child,” Ernst said.
“Be mindful of even cyber crimes, they could be yielding the information to hack various accounts that you may have.”
The view is shared by Hamilton’s public school board, which outlines similar recommendations through its “digital citizenship” guidelines advising against sharing personal information and that of others, by asking permission before taking photos/videos.
The RCMP and Hamilton police also concur on recommendations to continuously pay attention to security settings on apps and devices, which change with regularity.
“Whatever social media platforms you may have where you’re posting family photos or intimate photos of loved ones, these settings often change and with little to no notification by the platforms,” said Ernst.
“So do a self-assessment on your social media…. Keep an eye out for all of those settings and review your settings.”