"Don't Share" This One Kind of Photo on Facebook, Police Say in New Warning

·4 min read

At this point, we share an awful lot of our lives online. From our latest employment updates to real-time vacation photos, our social media pages are saturated with personal information that we wouldn't have dreamt of sharing in a pre-Facebook era. But even if you think these things are just being shared among your friends and family, that's not always the case. Now, authorities across the U.S. are alerting Americans to a major safety issue surrounding a popular post. Read on to find out what kind of photo you should never share on Facebook.

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Americans have grown more concerned about their online safety.

It does appear that overall we're much more concerned about the security of our online information now than we ever have been before.

In Jan. 2022, Go Verizon surveyed 1,000 Americans to get their insights on data security and online safety. According to the survey's findings, 81 percent of people are "very or somewhat" more concerned about their privacy on social media than they were last year. At the same time, 69 percent of respondents say they have deleted or thought about deleting a social media account because of news about data breaches of social media companies.

A new police warning indicates that concern is likely warranted.

Authorities around the U.S. want people to take this concern and apply it to something most of us post without a second thought: back-to-school photos.

If you're a Facebook user, you've surely had your feed inundated with these kinds of pictures when children head back to the classroom for the fall. Mitchell Lair, a lieutenant with the Georgetown Police Department in Kentucky, said that while parents are sharing these pics in good fun, they need to think twice, local station Fox 56 reported.

"It is important to realize that other people are online as well, especially on social media," he said. "There is people out there that may want to do you harm, or do your child harm."

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Officials are urging parents not to reveal specific information with these photos.

It's not necessarily the photo itself that is dangerous, however—it's the information it could contain that you need to be worried about. Ron Holt, a lieutenant with the Tazewell County Sheriff's Office in Virginia, told local CBS and Fox-affiliate WVNS, that parents likely don't see the dangers lurking on social media when they post back-to-school photos.

"Be aware that oversharing may give people who don't have the best intentions for your child and the ability to see where they go to school," he told the news outlet. "Maybe don't share what teacher they have or what particular school they may be attending for that school year so just be aware."

Lair agreed with this sentiment in his warning, advising parents to be mindful of one thing: "Location, location, location." He elaborated, "Obviously I wouldn't pose them in front of your home or necessarily the school they are going to. We want to make sure no one knows where your kid is going to school or the home that they live at any way that they can identify the location where your kids could be. Or yourself for that matter. It is good advice for us all, not just your kids."

Most parents share content about their children online.

Despite any concerns over social media safety, one thing is clear: Most parents share content involving their children online. In 2021, SecurityORG conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S. parents and children, and found that around 75 percent of parents shared pictures, stories, or videos of their children on social media, and more than 80 percent of parents used the real name of their kids online.

"A simple online photo might seem harmless, but including certain information can give hackers what they need to take advantage of you or your child," Joe Miller, chief of police at the Palos Park Police Department in Illinois, recently told NBC 5 Chicago. The sheriff's office in McHenry County, Illinois, says there are five things you should never include in a social media post: your child's age, their school name, their teacher's name and grade, identifying features of your child like their heigh and weight, or any other "overly personal" information.

"No matter your privacy settings or friends list," the McHenry County's sheriffs office said, "it's best to keep personal information on the internet to the bare minimum."