Cute But Dangerous – Posting Back to School Pictures

This issue has come to the fore over the past few weeks, as children returned to school across South Africa. At DigiKids, we work to help parents and children have a healthy, balanced relationship with the digital world. We hope this article assists you in making decisions around whether or not to post pictures of your children in their school uniforms online, while providing you with some reasonable alternatives. 

I get it, I really do. The excitement that surrounds the very first day your kid puts on their uniform with the shiny new shoes and heads off into their classroom is palpable. It’s only natural that you’d want to share that excitement with the world but is it really sensible? The short answer is no.

School Uniforms | DigiKids

Stranger Danger
We spend hours, if not days, of our lives, trying to enforce the rules around Stranger Danger into our children’s brainwaves. In fact, if anything, parents will probably admit to living with a strange undercurrent of fear around stranger danger that we try so very hard not to pass on to our kids, while angling these important talks towards them in a kind but firm manner. Keeping our kids safe is our primary motive for talking about it with our babies yet, what we’re doing online isn’t necessarily translating that into action.

Why Freak Out About The Pictures on Facebook?
Yes, you’ve got your privacy settings set to max and no, you’re not worried about how someone might screenshot something you share online. Heck, you’ll even happily check-in on Foursquare when you pop in to school for that parent’s evening. Here’s the problem though, and I’m sorry, but this one is rough to read:

When you post a picture of your child in their school uniform on to a social network or platform, you are immediately informing the world that your child is at a particular place, at a particular time and you’re not there to protect them. In fact, place those images into the wrong type of hands, and suddenly, someone you don’t know, knows exactly where your kid is every day, what their name is (it’s easy to figure out) and, quite possibly, who their teacher is. All this, while you’re happily off to work, and trusting that your kid is in safe hands at school.

And yes, school security systems exist and work. But are they foolproof – is any security system foolproof? That’s the question we have to ask ourselves.

Privacy Settings
I’m sorry, but your privacy settings mean blow-all, the second a friend of yours likes that cute pic of your kid on Day One of Big School, shares it or comments on it. Why? Because it’s highly likely that it’s now appearing in their friends’ newsfeeds. Do you know every friend of every person you are friends with on Facebook? And of that friend, of that friend, do you know their full listing of friends too? Nah, I didn’t think so.

Other social networks
Yes, I’m freaking out about Facebook but it’s worse on other social networks. Pop a pic of your kid in their school uniform on your public Twitter timeline and hey presto, anyone on the planet can see it – no, not just your followers, but anyone. Don’t believe me? Cool. Log out of Twitter and go to your Twitter profile. There you go – all your tweets are live and public, for anyone to see, pictures included. It’s the same for Instagram and other networks too (unless you have your account set to private, which most users do not do). You can read here about other circumstances where its inadvisable to share pictures of your children online.

Nothing infuriates me more about this whole Back to School pictures debacle than companies asking you to post your kids’ Back to School photos on to their Facebook page. Heck, now it’s all up in the public domain and – do you know everyone who likes that retailer’s Facebook page? Are you totally cool with that shop retweeting your tweet that lists your kid’s name, age and school in it, alongside that sweet image of your grinning first-dayer? You’re not? Oh. Right.

Dear marketing agencies, advertisers, companies, retailers and whoever does this – stop it. Right now. First off, be aware that by asking your fans to share their personal pictures, you’re putting their kids in direct or indirect danger. Secondly, you’re being lazy. Get creative with those back-to-school competitions and ask your fans to post their first-day-back lunchbox or their kids’ first artwork of the year. You don’t need their face and personal information to pick a winner, I promise you. For some guidelines on using images of children, see here, here and here.

Bucking up At School
It’s obvious too, that schools themselves want to share images of the happy kids in their classrooms on their website or Facebook page. Did you know that they should be asking you for express permission to do so? It’s true. To use a child’s image for advertising or marketing purposes, parents need to give express, written permission – just ask any advertising agency or casting group and they’ll tell you – there’s a waiver that has to be signed before they can use a child’s face in an advert. Sure, you could argue that the permission is implicit but, really, it’s not. And yes, social media platforms are to be considered as advertising mechanisms.

But How Do We Share Safely?
Okay, okay, I’ve yelled enough. Here’s how you can share those cute memories safely and only with people you know:

  • Set up a family Whatsapp or Telegram group for the big day back at school, and send those images directly to the small selection of people you really want to have seen them. Best part of doing this? You can snap that big day and share it with your loved ones as it happens;
  • Set up a family and close friends email list so you can, as safely as possible, transmit those smile-filled pictures to the people you care about or,
  • Make those memories into special gifts by turning your digital image into a print, plopping it into a frame and bingo, you’ve got the best gift for grandma, right there! You can also use services like PrintWild or PopTex to turn those first-day-backs into mounted memories for your family picture wall.
  • You can try a service like 23Snaps. More information on 23Snaps here.

A Final Thought
When it comes to sharing your family’s daily routines, location and lives online, it’s better to be on the safe side.


DigiKids Team

DigiKids is here to help!


Great article Cath.

We recently had a little girl and were thrilled by how many people came to visit us in the hospital.

Most of my friends know I don’t really use FB anymore but I was shocked when we got home after a few days and got told that a bunch of our friends had posted their selfies with our daughter to Facebook. And then tagged us in them.

We eventually asked all but one to take the pics down (and my wife relented and put up one of our own so people can see) but it amazes me how people just don’t realise the implications of pictures on social media. (or respect our choices to not put any up)

Can’t WAIT till we get to school 😛


Cath Jenkin

Permission should be asked for and received, before sharing a pic of a child, always!

Thank you for reading J!


And exactly who is going to do exactly what with that information?
I’m all for keeping kids safe, but who exactly is going to try to kidnap them from school? And how?


No, for 99.9% of the population, this is simply paranoia-inducing nonsense.

P.S. Nice pic of you and your kid in the bio. 🙂

Cath Jenkin

Thanks for your comment – we welcome discussion! We don’t feel this is paranoia-inducing, but rather a guideline and offering of responsible alternatives for parents to think about using.


While welcoming discussion, you fail to answer my question as to why (you consider that) this is dangerous.
And as for not being paranoia-inducing:

“school security systems exist and work. But are they foolproof – is any security system foolproof? That’s the question we have to ask ourselves.”

Really? Because that sounds a little paranoid to me.
This leads back to my question – who is going to do what with these images? – and how will that affect or be affected by school security systems?

Cath Jenkin

Thanks for your input.

We consider it a dangerous action, because it can reveal location details, which, quite often, best practice guidelines recommend one does should not do online.

We didn’t find our question paranoia-inducing, but perhaps the tone could be interpreted as such.

In discussions prior to this article being written, many people asked for guidelines on how to how to ensure that they were not, unwittingly or otherwise, sharing personal or location information related to their families. This is what we’ve hoped to achieve here.


I am not a parent but I will share my thoughts.

With the information of which school, childs age, grade, and the parents details it is easy (or easier) to abduct a child, should you so wish.

Just as you would go shopping for shoes in a shoe shop a peodophile “shops” for their next victim on-line on easy to access places like FB and Twitter.

So now you have given them all they need to convince the school that you are Mr & Mrs Smith’s friend and you are here to collect Jane, who is 7 and it is her first year at thsi school because they moved from wherever. And so the story goes. And one more child gets inadvertantly put in danger.

Yes, I agree, there are not than many peodophiles and there are a lot of children. Yes, I admit that children do happily travel to and from school safely every day of the week. But, would you want to have your child added to a potentional “shopping list” but putting their picture and details out there? When it is something so easy to avoid?


Daisy, I know first-hand of a child, in fact a young adult, who was abducted from right outside her institution of learning because they had tracked her on Facebook, marked her as a candidate, worked out where she was at any time, and pounced. She was dragged through a lurid week of child porn houses in Glenwood, drugged and eventually left at King Shaka as the police swooped in. There we dozens of girls, all taken the same way.

That’s not paranoid, that’s the truth and the girl in question is 50 shades of super bright so it wasn’t just a dumb girl with a Facebook page.


Guilty as charged! Not shared to FB just IG. I did post to twitter but school logo was obscured. Article makes a lot of sense and as much as I don’t check in anywhere the school uniform is a give away. Mommy will go and delete those pics now and be more careful. Thanks for the great article Cath!

Cath Jenkin

Thanks for reading Anita. We hope this has helped you to find alternative solutions too.

Tracey Preston

I’m with you ALL the way Cath.

Safety first.

I have made ALL, and many more of these errors online, and although I “can’t take them back” I can change the way I now approach sharing my kids if, I choose to. It is a sad state of affairs that leads us to a place in time where sharing the big moments in our lives could well endanger us, but being more savvy and sharing these thoughts is a good start.

I will endeavour to do more research into just how private the privacy settings are on platforms like Facebook, as if they fail us then perhaps we can, and need to address it with them. Much time and effort is put into keeping “privacy” as sacred as possible on a platform like FB, unlike twitter, so perhaps more could be achieved from their side too, if needs be in order for them to uphold one of the main purposes of the platform – to safely share our lives with the people we love. If I find anything substantial or useful, I will share without hesitation, as yours is a resource I am always glad I can tap into, as I’m sure so many parents do.

In the interim, the messaging group idea is a lovely one, thank you!

Thanks for this post Cath, it is thought provoking and informative in a digital age we are all adjusting to.

Always a fan of your work, and the info Digikids brings to this DigiMama x

Cath Jenkin

Glad we could help you to frame your thoughts around this issue, Tracey, and provide you with useful alternatives.

Thanks for reading!

Dave Luis

This is SUCH an important post. I have shared it with everyone at work.

A couple of years ago, when I returned from the UK with some huge leather boots, my then 10-year-old niece put them on. She was wearing her swimming costume at the time and the boots came up to mid-thigh. We thought it was a funny pic – so I posted it to Flickr. The pic attracted 19,000 views in 7 days and set off serious alarm bells for me – I pulled it down and THAT was my wake up call to the online predators out there.

Thanks for posting this, from a non-parent who is uncle to 11 nieces and nephews – I am all for educating both them and their parents on how to protect themselves online.

Cath Jenkin

Thanks for sharing our piece with your team, Dave, and relating your story to us. It’s always good to err on the side of caution.

Cath Jenkin

Hi Graham.

Thanks for sharing this. I think you may be a little off-point here, as I am well aware of the HONY project and, specifically, the fundraising initiative that has spawned from this image. You’ll note, I’m sure, that HONY have permission from the school and child to share the story, for a positive purpose. What we’re talking about, are the potentially negative connotations.

Our objective here was to inform parents of the potential dangers, and not to create a sense of panic. Moreover, we don’t like to present a potential problem with at least attempting to find solutions.

Anita B

I have to disagree with this idea because it feels a lot like victim blaming. Why are we blaming parents for the possible actions of predators out there? I would focus more on teaching parents about security measures online and learning how to use the various social media platforms properly. And I would fight for stronger legislation against the predators instead.

I do think that schools and newspapers need to ask for permission for any picture to be published but I dont really see how this can be stopped completely. Should we let our children live in fear or should we empower them on how to deal with a predators (strangers and family members alike)? The sad truth is that we cannot stop predators and no one is 100% safe online or offline.

Cath Jenkin

Thanks Anita, I do agree with you that more education should be done, and parents more aware of security settings etc. The issue has arisen, however, where the platforms are not being used in the most secure way, and we wanted to highlight that, while offering alternative solutions.

I also agree that more attention needs to be paid on a personal and governmental level to this.

Natasha Clark

When I had a parenting (family focused) blog, sometimes I’d look to see how people were finding my blog, through which search terms etc. Mostly was “cute kids” “naked boys” etc so I became very, very careful. What everyone here seems to forget is that 1.5 years ago one of the biggest INTERNATIONAL child porn rings was busted and many were South African – principals, lawyers, doctors, teachers. Almost 2 years on and they’re still trying to identify the victims in the photos and videos. Little kids, around 5 and up.


I think this is a great article, and if it protects even one child, then your work here is done x

Cath Jenkin

Thanks, Natasha, not only for sharing your experience but also for relating the important news stories.

Most of all, we appreciate and agree – if we’ve helped keep one child safe, then we’ve done our job.


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