Fort Saskatchewan RCMP Constable Lauren Mowbray went to the podium on Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 30) to talk about online safety. 

As the back-to-school season arrives in the community, the threat of criminals using social media posts to find information on children and families rises.

“The Alberta RCMP is reminding parents and guardians of the importance of online privacy, especially when it comes to sharing first-day photos of their children,” said Mowbray. “It has become increasingly common in recent years for parents to share images of their children alongside boards or placards with fun facts about personal details.” 

“Information on these types of posters often include the child’s name, age, grade, school, favourite activity, sometimes teacher and even more.”

The RCMP is advising that parents avoid the type of photos that needlessly expose any personal details. They also recognize that the parents might have the best intentions with posting these photos and that overlooking the potential downsides is easy. 

“It is important to understand that posting these personal details to social media can risk the safety and privacy of our children,” said Mowbray. “The personal information included in these photos can be used by individuals to identify, find, and build false senses of trust and security with the child.” 

Cst. Mowbray laid out the following things to keep in mind when posting your child on social media: 

  • Do not post images to social media that include the name of the school your child is attending.
  • Ensure the photos are taken outside in undisclosed locations.
  • Be mindful not to include visible addresses, such as house numbers or street addresses.
  • Avoid posting specific details about your child online. Instead of having your child pose with a poster full of personal information, consider keeping it simple with a sign that says ‘first day of school’ or just keep these photos. 

Online safety doesn’t just apply to the parents. Mowbray says opening up a dialogue between you and your children is a good first step in ensuring sound online security habits. 

“Talking about [online safety] regularly and making it a part of the daily conversation will allow [children] to feel more comfortable and safe discussing the topic,” said Mowbray. “In turn, they will be more likely to come home and speak freely to you if they ever do have any questions or concerns.”

If parents have already posted photos that might compromise their child’s safety or privacy, the RCMP says they would advise them to delete them from their social media platforms. 

For more information regarding online safety for parents and children, check here.