Australian Federal Police Warns Parents to Think Twice About Sharing Back-to-School Photos Online

By Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu is based in Sydney. She focuses on Australian and New Zealand national affairs. Contact her at rebecca.zhu[at]
January 30, 2022Updated: January 31, 2022

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is warning parents against publicly sharing back-to-school photos of their children on social media without using secure privacy settings.

AFP Commander Hilda Sirec said back-to-school photos that show a child’s name and location can be used by child sex offenders to groom children.

“The first day of school is a treasured milestone for parents and carers and a happy memory for many families,” 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.”

The AFP advises against showing photos of children in school uniforms, as it can help identify where the child attends school, and urged parents and carers to keep a child’s personal information private, including full name and age.

“You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and give them a photo album of your children and tell them their names or location,” Sirec said.

Epoch Times Photo
A “Welcome Back to School” banner hangs on the fence as students in years 2 to 11 return to school at Fairvale High School in Sydney, Australia, Oct. 25, 2021. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

Sirec warned that many offenders’ online grooming often starts with the information that parents and carers share online.

“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,” she said.

One tool that groomers will use is to build trust with the family and student using the information available.

“They can start engaging with the child on social media applications or even the parents and carers, basically saying, ‘Yep, my little son Johnny goes to the same school,’” Sirec told Seven’s Sunrise program.

The AFP also advised against sharing back-to-school photos of children posing in front of homes, where the house number or street name is easily identifiable, and heavily advises against checking into the photo location for the social media post.

Research in 2020 conducted by the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) found that the proportion of parents concerned about online grooming was just 3 percent.

Over half of participants did not know what they could do to keep children safe from online child sexual exploitation, and more than one-in-five felt that the topic was too repulsive and sickening to think about.

Online child sexual exploitation can be reported to the ACCCE or call Crime stoppers on 1800 333 000.