AFP reminds parents to think before posting back-to-school images online
Editor's note: Audio from AFP Commander Hilda Sirec is available for download.
The AFP is urging parents to lock down their privacy settings on social media accounts and limit the information they share about their children online, including posting pictures of students in their school uniforms.
Back-to-school is a proud time for parents and children, some who are wearing school uniforms for the first time.
The AFP wishes all students are happy and safe 2022 but is reminding parents to take a few simple steps to protect their children.
Parents are encouraged to lock down privacy settings on their social media accounts, and avoid posting the full name of their children and their address. Posting images of children in school uniforms can also identify what school they attend.
AFP Commander for the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) Hilda Sirec said the online safety message was timely as many students across the country prepared to return to school.
"The first day of school is a treasured milestone for parents and carers and a happy memory for many families,'' Commander Sirec said.
"Parents and carers can continue to take those wonderful happy snaps and post them online. However, we do urge people who are sharing those images to make sure they're using secure privacy settings on social media and only sharing them with people they know and trust."
AFP child protection investigators regularly seize images of children in the collections of online child sex offenders.
"We have seen some offenders go to great lengths to gain access to children and in some instances, online grooming has started with information that parents and carers have shared online,'' Commander Sirec said.
"The more information available about a child online, the easier it can be for offenders to build a profile to groom them, or even to groom parents in a bid to access information about their children.
"You wouldn't walk up to a stranger and give them a photo album of your children and tell them their names or location.
"We all need to remember that in the digital age, that is the equivalent of posting information and images of children online without the appropriate safeguards."
The AFP also advises parents to avoid posting images of students at the front of homes that can identify a street or street number.
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.
"There are easy steps 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.
"It is vital for parents, carers and young people to be educated about online safety."
Top tips for parents and carers
- Keep your child's personal information including full name and age private
- Ensure the background of photos or videos doesn't give away your address or location, (and don't post your location or 'check in')
- Avoid posting photos in school uniform
- Only share images of your children with people you know and trust
- For community accounts, consider having a closed group with approved members and ensure you have strong privacy settings in place.
How to report online child abuse
- If you believe a child is in imminent danger, call police Triple Zero (000) or visit your local police station.
- If your child is experiencing issues online, it is essential to collect evidence - taking screenshots or photos of the content. Once you have collected your evidence, block and report on the app, site or platform where the issue occurred.
Online child sexual exploitation can be reported to the ACCCE or call Crime stoppers on 1800 333 000.
If you or someone you know are impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation there are support services available, visit the ACCCE to learn more.
Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protection children online can be found at ThinkUKnow, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child sexual exploitation.
Research conducted by the ACCCE in 2020 revealed only about half of parents talked to their children about online safety.
Fifty per cent of parents don't know what to do to keep their kids safe online. Just 3 per cent of parents are concerned about online grooming. And sadly, most believe online child sexual exploitation is too repulsive to even think about.
A podcast launched last year by the ACCCE 'Closing The Net' is working to change that, showcasing that knowledge is power and that our only chance to help prevent this issue is if we bring a 'whole-of-community' response.
The podcast series offers valuable tips and advice on how to keep kids safe online.
It has recorded more than 75,000 downloads and trended number one on Australian documentary podcasts, highlighting the demand for information and resources to help protect kids when they're online. Listen to the Closing the Net podcast on your favourite streaming platform.
Note to media:
Use of term 'CHILD ABUSE' MATERIAL NOT 'CHILD PORNOGRAPHY'
The correct legal term is Child Abuse Material – the move to this wording was among amendments to Commonwealth legislation in 2019 to more accurately reflect the gravity of the crimes and the harm inflicted on victims.
Use of the phrase "child pornography" is inaccurate and benefits child sex abusers because it:
- indicates legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim and therefore legality on the part of the abuser; and
- conjures images of children posing in 'provocative' positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse.
Every photograph or video captures an actual situation where a child has been abused.
AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297