With social media predators on the rise, police warn parents to be cautious about how much they share of their families on social media, even when accounts are set to private.
Cybercrime has increased throughout the years, but none is more terrifying than child predators abusing social media to target children. Although many parents wish to share pictures and information about their kids on the internet, the fact of the matter is that oversharing online can be dangerous. Police have recently warned parents about this and offered some tips on how to keep posts simple and safer.
The back-to-school photo trend has become a cultural standard. For years now parents have taken to popular social media sites, like Facebook, to post pictures of their children on the first day of school. Unfortunately, child predators await these moments to collect information and even stalk children.
What started as a fun trend has become an oversharing event. Parents are no longer just displaying photos of their children before class or going to school, they have begun circulating social media posts that include children’s information. It’s meant as a milestone marker — having children hold a sign in the picture, stating their name, age/grade level, the name of their school and teacher, as well as their favorite interests.
These social media displays provide child predators with all the information they need to not only know how to gain access to a child but how to lure them into traps by catering to what they enjoy. Last month this was called out by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office as one of the officers displayed a photo that overshared information beside one that displayed less and was more suitable for social media. The post also noted that oversharing children’s information doesn’t just attract child predators, but can lead to fraud and other cyber crimes.
Data harvesting has become a huge business. Cyber criminals seeking information on social media can take a child’s name, age, and city to commit fraud or target their family. It was also noted that even private social media accounts are at risk of hacks and other information harvesting.
In recent years schools themselves have faced record numbers of data breaches. This is made more easy when masses of parents display students’ names, teachers’ names, and the school they all frequent. Identity theft is much too easy in the technological age and oversharing on social media makes it all the more likely.
The President and CEO of Enough is Enough, a nonprofit dedicated to making the internet safer for children, posted similar sentiments regarding Instagram. The popular photo-sharing social media site has been linked to harming young users’ mental health. Likewise, it is a known playground for child predators.
A child photographer was caught selling photos to pedophiles on Instagram just this year. He was arrested and charged with the sexual exploitation of children on social media. But even after, Instagram did not prevent the photographer involved from creating other accounts and continuing to post pictures of children in swimwear to continue enticing child predators.
This displays the sensitive nature of photographing children and how not only can parents’ posts attract child predators, but those of the photographers they employ. In order to ensure safe internet habits, parents are advised to limit what they share on social media. It is also wise to carefully vet photographers and be clear in choosing to not allow family photos to be shared by others.