It’s that time of year again! Picture it: the smell of brand new school supplies, first-day outfits that slap (that’s kid-speak for “cool”), and freshly packed (and mostly healthy) lunches. But before you get caught up in the excitement — and stress! — of the new school year, we’ve got some tips to help you protect your child’s privacy, both online and in real life.
1. Think Twice About Posting Those Back-to-School Photos
You’ve seen them on Facebook and Instagram — the bright, smiling faces of kids holding up a chalkboard or sign before hopping on the bus. It usually lists out the date, the grade, the teacher’s name, and maybe even hobbies and future career interests. While we definitely love the idea, this form of sharenting presents a potential danger to kids.
If a less-than-savory character were to stumble across this photo, they’d instantly know your child’s name, school, teacher, and even what they like to do. This could make starting up a conversation with your child easy, which is a scary prospect. And while yes, having a private social media account to post pictures like these to is always a good idea, it’s by no means 100% safe. Phones can be lost, stolen, or even hacked.
2. Remember That Everyone Can See Yard Signs
On a similar note, there’s been a recent trend in the past few years of posting school spirit signs in your front yard or living room window. They don’t always announce names, but often they’ll proclaim to the neighbors — and any stranger who drives by — that a “future Smith Elementary Wildcat Lives Here.” These kinds of signs are also common around graduation time, too. Of course, you can’t hide the fact that you have kids as a neighborhood resident, but it’s probably not a good idea to broadcast their exact age to anyone who walks past your house, either.
3. Help Safeguard Social Media Footprints
A new school year is a good time to check up on any identifying information that may be in your child’s social media footprint (if they have accounts). Make sure your kid’s username doesn’t contain details that immediately identify them as underage — this could make them a target for online predators wishing to start up a conversation. Details to avoid include birth years (like Fotnitefan2012), local school mascots, ages, and more. Similarly, many kids like to include their graduation year or school name in their Instagram or TikTok bios, but this is another way they may be targeted online by their age. Even if an account is private, these bios remain public for any user to see.
As you dive into this school year’s adventures, remember that safeguarding your child’s privacy is a vital aspect of their overall well-being. By being mindful of what you share online and being cautious about public displays of information, you contribute to their safety and peace of mind in a rapidly evolving digital world. Your efforts today will help ensure that your child’s academic journey is as secure as it is enriching.