Back to School - a time where every parent loves to take pictures of their kids heading back after a long summer vacation.
I get it; I am also proud of my kid and their growth and accomplishments.
But in the digital age do you stop and wonder if posting pictures of your kids, or information about yourself on social media could be dangerous?
Being able to remember their firsts is always something a parent wants to do with friends and family.
In a convenient medium is always a bonus, but given the saying "Once it's on the internet, it's there forever." exists, that should give you pause.
Think about the what's, and how it pertains to your basic safety from a situational awareness standpoint:
Logging into Facebook the next few days after the start of the new school year and I spotted a laundry list of information:
The children's First & Last names
What age they are
What grade they are going into
The name of their classroom teacher
The school they are going to
Favorite food, book, color, etc.
Distinctive characteristics (height (in relation to certain objects) hair color, style of shoe, style of backpack, face, etc.
Now, to most people, that doesn't occur to them as dangerous.
Think about how many times you have heard of folks getting their accounts hacked.
Or how many people who accept friend requests from people they may not know.
Or they do know and it's a dummy account with information pulled from an unrestricted FB account.
Think of your parents and their ability to navigate social media;
Do they even know they can make accounts private and information only available to friends?
What happens if gram-grams FB is simply that; an open book for folks to see the information they re-share on their timelines?
I don't like to make things out to be super dangerous all the time.
But, with how your personal information is open for all to see online, makes it a dangerous precedent.
You leave all that information out there about your kids and anyone who wants to spend enough time can become a threat.
(Definitely more so if you don't teach your kids about being aware of the dangers of predators.)
From the bullet points above; if there would be a discerning weirdo poking through FB profiles they could then approach those kids:
They could relate to them with their favorite things and blammo - you don't have a kid to pick up after school.
It happens every day, even in the modern age where everyone under the age of 12 has a cellphone.
And everyone has the ability to record and report on anything and everything.
But why is that a potential threat to ME?
Most folks are stuck in this idyllic mindset where they think nothing bad will ever happen here;
"I have good neighbors, the streets are well lit at night, this isn't the sketchy part of town, etc."
They don't apply the critical thinking part of "bad things can happen anywhere, at any time" to THEIR lives.
Even in said day and age where everyone under 12 seems to have a cellphone and the ability to record everything.
Except what is important (as well as as put that same personal information up on TikTok.)
You have to then compete with what we refer to as your "Normalcy Bias" when it comes to strange goings-on.
It is the simple cognitive dissonance where you downplay everything from pre-attack indicators to preparing for an eventual disaster.
But that's another article for another day - today we are talking about basic awareness of your informational security.
Let's talk about your vehicle - What are you projecting without realizing it?
Back to you, the adult; the responsible party and you being a proud parent.
Look at the above picture that describes some typical things you can find on the back of anyone's' vehicle.
Your pride in the accomplishments of your children also conveys information to the discerning eye if displayed for all to see.
Someone looking for an easy mark can make a quick assessment from the bumper stickers on your vehicle and follow you home.
They could watch basic habits over a few days and pick the best time to break into your home and make off with your stuff.
Don't even get me started on the "Probably a free gun in this vehicle" meme.
YOU are ultimately responsible for the information you project to the outside world.
The safety of you and yours starts and ends with you.
Take steps to minimize the information you would rather not share with potential threats, and play your cards close to your vest.
Be proud of your kids and their accomplishments, but don't go shouting from the rooftops.
Share photos with family, but don't go posting everything about your life on relatively unregulated channels.
If you have things like digital photo frames, be sure to secure the device from being found on open wi-fi networks (and secure your own network with proper security such as passwords or two-factor authentication at a minimum.)
Teach papaw how to put his FB on private so if you do share photos, they aren't immediately open for perusal to anyone surfing FB.
Most people online are unaware of the potential threats and the significance they have.
Anything from a phishing email to posting the front of their house on FB with the house number showing.
It sounds really dumb when you say it out loud, but people still fall victim to the “Jeff Bezos is giving away some of his hoarded wealth and chose you!” scams. Or even a simple "Hey Frank, this is Fred from High School." in the tagline is sometimes all it takes.
Have that talk with family members about what you post online and how it can lead to unforeseen consequences.
It should be not only directed at kids, but also those from the older generations as well.
Teens are in the generation where everything is about likes and pumping those follower numbers
It's super important to have the talk about posting their entire lives on social media.
One in six teens with some online presence say they were contacted online by someone they did not know in a way that made them feel uncomfortable or even scared.
Girls are more than twice as likely to run into this than boys.
If you like to post random thoughts or opinions online or fancy yourself a local cuisine critic, try making an alternate account instead of FirstName_LastName_Birthdate with FirstName_LastName@InternetMail.com and don't share things that could eventually be tracked back to you and your family.
If you are going to take pictures with your phone, it has a setting for "Location Data" that can be turned off but finding out where and how is dependent on the phone you are using.