You’ve just had a baby—congratulations!! And everyone wants to know when the baby was born, where, how much they weighed and what you named them. And as a new, proud parent, you want to shout your new joy from the rooftops, right?
Not so fast according to Social Media Safety Experts. Children are one of the largest targeted groups of identity theft because their information is so readily available. Because of this, it is often not until they are ready to take off for college and apply for their first credit card or a student loan that ID theft is discovered.
And of course, there are the creeps. The ones who target young children or even just steal their photos and put them in places we don’t ever want them to be. It is up to us, their parents and their caregivers to protect them. Everyone has to make their own decisions about how much information, but here are several things to consider before you hit the “post” button.
- Birth Information: As much as we want the entire world to know about our precious new baby, and to see how beautiful they are, consider this: If you post the date, time, hospital birth-weight and name (even just first and middle, if it is on YOUR page, with YOUR last name, you just gave them that too), gives an ID thief everything they need to know to steal your child’s identity. And as mentioned above, the crime can go years undetected and your child might end up entering adulthood with their credit trashed and a credit clean up mess on their hands. Even the seemingly “innocent” and “fun” posts on social media asking you to “tell us about your birth” or “tell us about your life” or “let’s get to know you” give out enough information for someone looking with wrong intentions.
- Related to number one: When it is your child’s birthday, consider only posting “Happy Birthday Kevin!” instead of “Kevin is 6 today!” See the difference in the information provided? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to count backwards 6 years and now they have your child’s exact birth date.
- When you do choose to post photos, be careful! Turn off the geo-tagging function on your photos (Iphone: https://www.igeeksblog.com/disable-geotagging-for-photos-on-iphone-ipad/) and (Android: http://www.ubergizmo.com/how-to/turn-off-geotagging-android/) so the location cannot be detected—there are programs that can trace to the exact location and if you are uploading “from Denny Park” in Seattle, they can find you. And fast. Be sure also not to tag or hashtag locations you frequent, especially schools, daycare, churches and parks, as this gives someone who might be searching your ‘routine’ and allows them to find you easier.
- Never post naked photos, bath time photos (no matter how cute!) or potty photos. Believe it or not, there are sick people out there who look for this stuff and use it for all kinds of bad purposes. Heck, I even have a close friend who had an online children’s clothing business and used her adorable kids as models. A creep on the internet found the photos and started sending her horribly inappropriate messages and online stalking her family. She had to take it all down and eventually closed the business.
- Group photos with other children. Posting other people’s children online without permission is not OK. How much we post or not is personal and each family should make that decision themselves. I know of one child who was abducted by a non-custodial parent in a nasty custody dispute because they were Facebook friends with a friend of their ex-spouse and through that saw a photo with their child in it and the location of their school.
- Here’s one I didn’t think of until researching this: Anything (illness, weakness, struggle in school, shyness, etc..) that another child at their school could potentially use to bully them.
- Your address (this includes posting photos of your driver’s license or your teens new license which has your address on it)
- Their school information. We all are posting “1st Day of School” photos right now—leave OFF the school name and don’t hashtag the school. You don’t want someone who should not be on their campus looking for them.
- Keep in mind—the information posted on the Internet doesn’t go away—it can be found for years and with some programs like “Wayback Machine”, it’s amazing to discover what is still out there. There is something called data-mining that is used to find information such as: when you were born, where you were born, your mother’s maiden name, the name of your first pet…. see where this is going? These are answers to security questions—usually on the sites we least want hacked. The long term effects of posting all this information is not even fully known at this point, but the internet is a gold-mine for ID thieves.
- You might have your settings as private as they get, but if your friends have open profiles on social media, that exposes you to possible targeting as well.
- Photos of your car and house, especially if you use a neighborhood app like Nextdoor, makes it pretty easy for someone to figure out where you live, and if you have posted a lot about your kids or routine, they can track your movements.
None of this information is intended to make you paranoid, but it is intended to make you think twice about what you are posting on social media and what you should consider doing more or less often to help protect your children’s safety. Celebrate that new baby and your children’s accomplishments for sure, but perhaps be a bit more cautious about how much information you share.