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Experts warn this back-to-school tradition can be dangerous for your child

"People in general don't realize how much they overshare on social media."
4-year-old girl with braids holds a handwritten chalkboard sign that says, "First Day of School."
Denise Balyoz Photography / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Cathy Pedrayes has a message for parents who are excitedly sharing their kids' milestones on the internet.

Pedrayes, a cyber security professional, shared a now-viral post about a popular back-to-school tradition.

"What not to post on social media? The first day of school chalkboards," Pedrayes said in the video, which has more than 2 million views on TikTok. "If it just says first day, that's not terrible, but some of them have the child's name, teacher's name, school, favorite sports or activities and maybe you don't want a bunch of strangers knowing that."

Pedrayes said that seeing parents share chalkboard posts each year prompted her to make the video.

"People in general don't realize how much they overshare on social media," she told TODAY Parents.

Pedrayes, who formerly worked in television, also advised parents to eliminate any identifiable features from photos.

"When kids are younger, if you’re posting their school uniform or sports uniform, you're revealing where your kids are most days of the year," she said. "It’s just extra vulnerable information."

Other photo details to avoid include names on backpacks or lunchboxes, house numbers and license plates.

"A lot of times cyber criminals do use that information," Pedrayes said.

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Pedrayes explained that sharing on social media opens individuals up to personal security issues.

"The people who robbed Kim Kardashian in France recently admitted they had collected most of the information from her social media account," she said. "And there was a Japanese pop star that when she was taking selfies for her social media, she was wearing sunglasses, her stalker identified her location, because he could see the train station reflected in her glasses."

Corporal Kenneth Hibbert Jr. of the Community Policing Unit of Prince George County Police Department in Maryland agreed with Pedrayes.

"With technology and more people at home, we have more hackers taking advantage of everybody," Hibbert told TODAY. "Kids and senior citizens are the vulnerable ones in society right now."

A commenter on Pedrayes's post asked, "Is this still vital if your account is private and you know pretty much your entire following?"

While Pedrayes recommended omitting such details due to people's ability to take screenshots or hack into accounts, it's crucial to recognize another vitally important resason: most child luring and kidnapping occurs by people the victim knows.

In 2020, there were 365,348 reports of missing children in the United States, according to the FBI. The U.S. Department of Justice reported that "based on the identity of the perpetrator, there are three distinct types of kidnapping: kidnapping by a relative of the victims or 'family kidnapping' (49 percent); kidnapping by an acquaintance of the victims or 'acquaintance kidnapping' (27 percent); and kidnapping by a stranger to the victims or 'stranger kidnapping' (24 percent)."

"It can be an ex-spouse or family member that you may have had contact with that you don't talk to anymore," Hibbert said. "By you putting your kid's information out there and sharing it, anyone can pose as somebody's relative, or can pay somebody that may look like that person's culture or identity. People have to be mindful of what they're sharing."