As children around the country head back to school, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) is warning parents not to post photos on social media without locking down their privacy settings.
Images with children in school uniform, with their name or indicators of their location in the background, can be used by offenders to build a profile and groom parents and children.
The AFP says it is continuing to regularly seize images of children in the collections of online child sex offenders.
Timely reminder of safe online practices
Commander of the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation and Child Protection Operations, Hilda Sirec, said the back-to-school period was a timely reminder to implement safe online practices.
“The first day of school is one of those milestones for parents. Children in their uniform on their first day of school are treasured photos in many family albums,” Command Sirec said.
“There’s no reason why parents and carers cannot continue to take those wonderful happy snaps and post them online. However, we are urging parents and carers who are sharing those images to make sure they’re using secure privacy settings and only sharing images with people they know and trust.”
Your children’s photos may travel widely
According to the police, photos posted online of a child’s first day at school can reveal a lot of personal information and travel more widely than intended.
Community or school social media pages featuring children are also being urged to consider the types of images being shared and who can view them.
“Some offenders go to great lengths in order to gain access to children and the AFP is seeing instances of online grooming starting from the information that parents and carers are sharing online,” Sirec explained.
Several simple safety steps you can take
“There are simple steps that parents and carers can take to have more control over who can access their images and minimise the chance of inappropriate contact.
“If sharing content of children online, check the privacy settings and make sure that your social media accounts are using the most secure settings possible.”
She said it was now more important than ever to ensure parents, carers and our young people are educated about online safety. The increase of children being online during the pandemic meant offenders had more opportunities to target potential victims.