The Politics Of The Back To School Photo

Should we be thinking more about security when posting our BTS pics?

back to school photo

by Ruby Norris |
Updated on

September has arrived and along with new stationery lining the shelves and the startling realisation we're now measuring the time until Christmas in 'sleeps,' we are about to see a lot of back to school photos.

As our French cousins put it: c'est la rentrée. The time of year families flock back to the cities, suitably bronzed, to tackle a new academic year or final business quarter with a new joie de vivre only a summer in the Riviera can supply. Over here in the UK we don't put it quite so romantically, but back-to-school season is officially upon us, and with everyone pinning their hopes on September being the month where we all get back to some sort of normality, it's bigger than ever.

Parents up and down the country will take to social media to share pictures of their uniform-clad children all set to embark on another year of compulsory education. Each year it's thought that over 1.3 billion back to school photos are shared online.

But when our children's safety and security at school is on our mind more than ever, you might want to think twice before posting those pictures.

It's not just the risk of clogging up friends' Facebook feeds or losing a few Instagram followers parents could be running by posting these photos. According Metro, cybersecurity company McAfee warns could pose a genuine security threat as nearly a third of the pictures shared are on public profiles. This means approximately 390 million images can be accessed by total strangers.

"These sorts of images can be used to gather personal information such as school, location, a child's full name, or even birth dates to paint a picture of who they are," warns Raj Samani, Chief Scientists and Fellow at McAfee. Yet, despite this wealth of information being available to literally anyone and the fact over half of us are worried about paedophiles gaining access to this data, research carried out by McAfee suggests 53% of us still plan to share images of their children in their school uniform this week.

back to school

But for mum-of-two Lisa Forde, the risks of posting back to school photos far outweigh the need to share online. Not only is it a safeguarding issue, Lisa explains, but she doesn't want people knowing where her children go to school. Lisa is also conscious people don't want to be "bombarded with back to school photos online, instead opting "keep events offline and only sharing them with close friends and family."

However, for some mums, sharing pictures of their children is the only way to update friends and family living further afield on their kids' lives. "My family all live back in Australia and New Zealand, so this is a way for me to keep them in touch with my girls as they grow up," journalist-turned-blogger Jacqui Paterson explains.

But it's all about being savvy. Jacqui admits she is aware of the potential risks that come with sharing on public profiles. She adds: "I would have no qualms sharing on my private Facebook page, but I wouldn't gratuitously share on these open forums. I would make sure there were absolutely no identifying elements - school logos, signs in the background etc - and I would also check my girls were happy for that photo to be used on my blog, Mummy's Little Monkey."

In addition to the safety concerns, what some parents may consider an opportunity to show off their offspring in a bid for a few extra likes on the 'gram, could actually prove damaging to their children's well-being. Samani adds: "Parents also need to think about the emotional risks as they build a 'digital identity' of their children online, often without their consent."

According to a study by ComRes, only 27% of parents even consider this before publishing, meanwhile, over a quarter of children aged 10-12 reportedly feel anxious or worried as a result of their parents posting these pictures. At a time when online-bullying is rife and more and more children are using social media from a younger age, parents should think twice before posting an 'embarrassing' photo online.

And its not just children who could be left red-faced. Social media and online photo sharing could provide the means for school-gate snobbery to go digital. While you may be able to escape the wrath of the 'bitchy mums' by avoiding the dreaded school run, posting photos of your kids heading back to school could encourage unwanted criticism from other parents or unhealthy competition over the number of likes your little ones' photo has garnered.

While stopping parents from posting back to school pictures of their kids all together might be just a bit drastic, McAfee say parents should "check their privacy settings and who they allow on their social network". They also advise turning off location settings before uploading a snap from the school gates. Oh, and it's probably best to check in with your 12-year-old before sharing that questionable throwback.

But just as we love to hate good ol' humble brag, our daily scroll through Facebook on a cool September morning just wouldn't be the same without the 1342 first day shots of Sarah from accounts' gap-toothed 7-year-old grimacing to camera, would it?

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