“Never Post Your Child’s Picture with the School Bus License Plate Visible” — Really?

Maybe you have a favorite (and by favorite I mean most inane AND insane) parenting safety tip. My current fave, clipped from the LoveAndMarriageBlog, is an article tied to the first day of school. It lists all the photos you should never share on social media, including:

*Any picture of your kid in front of the school where you can see the school’s name.

*Your kid clutching a “school notebook or folder” that includes the school’s name.

*A school supply list with the school’s name (surely a popular pic)

All because some creep online will see your irresistible moppet, search for clues as to his/her whereabouts, figure out where he/she attends school and immediately book a flight across the country (or possibly world) to come and get him/her. Okay, if there is an unhinged ex-spouse involved, do what you must. But otherwise…

Anyway, my favorite tip from that piece?

Photos With The School Bus

Standing next to the bright yellow school bus is a pretty fun and iconic photo. Make sure when posting online, you don’t post any picture that has numbers on it. Those black letters on the side of the bus are identifying markers and you definitely don’t want anyone knowing what bus your kid comes home on. This also includes photos near the back of the bus that show the license plate.

Have you seen any advice that tops this? If so, please share!  – L.

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Back to school, armed with fear!

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48 Responses to “Never Post Your Child’s Picture with the School Bus License Plate Visible” — Really?

  1. BL August 24, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    “All because some creep online will see your irresistible moppet, search for clues as to his/her whereabouts, figure out where he/she attends school and immediately book a flight across the country (or possibly world) to come and get him/her.”

    Remember when school room assignments were listed in the local newspaper?

    Sigh.

  2. SKL August 24, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

    LOL. It seems to me that nobody needs to check facebook to know where there are schools full of children. Or school buses for that matter. 😛

  3. SKL August 24, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

    I have a stalker, at least he seems like a stalker to me. An old ex from over a decade ago. I don’t want him around me or my kids. It had been quiet for a while, but he contacted me the other day and got the old paranoia juices flowing.

    He’s the main reason I remain anonymous on the internet and keep almost all fb posts private.

    I am not afraid of random weirdos looking at my kids.

    That said, I do wonder why so many parents think the world wants to see so much of their kid. I mean give it a break. Maybe there should be a tax on excessive photo posting. 😛

  4. K August 24, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    Yeah, I just love the assumption that predators aren’t looking for *a* child, they are looking for *your* child, and will drive past dozens of schools full of equally as tempting kids because they saw the name of *your* kids’ school on facebook.

  5. Workshop August 24, 2017 at 1:10 pm #

    There is probably a more extreme example, but as my brain doesn’t function in the “fear 24/7” mode, I can’t think of any.

    On another forum I post on, I’ve had people warn against me posting pictures of my kids, and my response is always “Why?” Once someone told me there was location information embedded in the picture. Um, no, that’s not how jpeg files work.

    Now, I do ask my wife to make sure her Facebook settings are marked private, but that’s more because I don’t need other people’s drama, not because I’m scared someone’s going to try and break in and steal my kids.

  6. Theresa Hall August 24, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

    Unless you got a crazy stalker hardly anyone will care what school your kid goes to. The few that do well they’re old busy bodies and think it their job to tell others how live their lives.

  7. Ken Hagler August 24, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

    In real life the rare cases of creepy strangers kidnapping children are almost universally cases where the creepy strangers work for the local “child protection” bureaucracy, and government employees don’t need Facebook to know where you live.

  8. Jessica August 24, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

    I am baffled when people say “Don’t put a name tag on your child.” Should I also not talk to him in public either? Because if you walk behind us for 30 seconds, you’ll hear “Mark! Mark? Mark!! MARK.” People’s names are not secrets. Neither are addresses– they used to print them in the phone book.

  9. Allison August 24, 2017 at 2:38 pm #

    Jessica, I was on an internet forum once where (multiple!) people said they avoided a certain fast-food chain because the staff calls out your name when your order is ready. They were sure that something bad would happen to them if other people in the place knew their first name. I’m not sure how… magic, maybe?

  10. AmyP August 24, 2017 at 2:51 pm #

    Insane. 90% of the time somebody wants to abuse your kid they know where they go to school. Hell, most of the time they live in your own house. Sex abuse is not common but I hesitate to call it rare but certainly is rare for it to be some random person. It’s usually a family member or somebody the child knows so advice like this is useless. If you want to keep your child safe (impossible-but I mean relatively safe) have open conversations and teach them how to handle situations should they arise. Hiding your children from the world is not the answer. Plus it seems exhausting.

  11. AmyP August 24, 2017 at 2:53 pm #

    Oh and to add my silly example of “safety” advice, I saw some posts online where people were adamant that going outside during the eclipse while pregnant would harm the unborn child. They even provided “articles” to “prove” it. That one truly boggled my mind. Most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

  12. Joan August 24, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

    Regarding the knowing of strangers’ names:

    When I was in high school, a game my friends and I would play in public places (usually far from home, like on youth group trips to Disneyland) was to eavesdrop on strangers until we learned someone’s name, preferably someone who was with a group of friends. We would then approach the person, address him enthusiastically by name, and pretend to be old friends who hadn’t seen him in a while. It was always hilarious for us to see people either react with total confusion, suspicion, or assume they really did know us, and try to fake remembering us.

    As far as I know, this is the worst thing you can do with the knowledge of a stranger’s first name. Slightly annoy them for your own amusement.

  13. Papilio August 24, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

    Isn’t the whole idea of Facebook that you’re NOT anonymous? So, you know, when you post a (public) picture of your kid, other people can see your first and last name and, if a rare enough combination, find out pretty much everything about you online in all those public records and phone books? Really, what’s left that needs to be kept a secret, exactly?

    Same thing when people were claiming it was stupid of Lenore to show her house in the first episode of World’s Worst Mom, because *now* people would know where to find Izzy and abduct him. Like, how many Skenazies are there in New York? Hello?

  14. johnf August 24, 2017 at 4:06 pm #

    @workshop: JPEG files certainly do support embedding location information; look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exif if you doubt this. If your camera/phone/whatever supports location metadata, it almost certainly has a way to turn it off; many devices that do support it have it turned off by default. So if you’re worried about it, turn it off.

  15. Shelly Stow August 24, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

    Yeah, I liked the one about not having stick figures on the back windshield depicting members of the family because that immediately let the predators on every corner know the family had 2 girls and a boy just waiting to be snatched the second they exited the car. No, wait, if they see them exiting the car, they know what they are. What WAS the purpose of not having the stick figures? Maybe cruising the streets looking for prey and seeing the stick figures on the car in the driveway alerted them so that they could stake out the house and grab them when they exited the house. Yeah, that makes so much more sense.

  16. Workshop August 24, 2017 at 4:34 pm #

    @johnf,
    Huh, must be a byproduct of me not having a camera made after 2014.

    And I don’t have a smartphone either.
    I know, weird, right?

    But given that information . . .
    Why don’t the authorities get a bunch of pictures of adorable children, change the geolocation tags, and then catch all the bad guys who show up to grab the cute kids?

    Perhaps because that’s not how bad guys operate.

    Thanks for the information.

  17. Art August 24, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

    @workshop

    Exif information has been around almost since the beginning of digital photography. JohnF is right. It can be very detailed, including the date, type of camera, location where the picture was taken, it can also contain digital watermarking to shut down copyright violations.

  18. Steve August 24, 2017 at 6:09 pm #

    When I was a kid the local phone book not only gave the address. It also listed the children and, if I remember correctly, it gave the year of birth for the kids. So if you wanted to call your friend you could call the correct Mr Johnson.

  19. Papilio August 24, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

    Off topic, but, @Shelly: “the family had 2 girls and a boy just waiting to be snatched the second they exited the car. No, wait, if they see them exiting the car, they know what they are.”
    Unless………………..
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/24/inside-out-portraits-cross-gender-children_n_7318026.html

  20. Papilio August 24, 2017 at 6:15 pm #

    @Steve: Stalkers must get so bored in America…!!

  21. Backroads August 24, 2017 at 7:14 pm #

    The school I teach at is rather formal and fussy (yet with a spectacularly free-range admin, so not complaining). Kids wear IDs as part of uniform. Eith names.

  22. Donald August 24, 2017 at 7:19 pm #

    ……..It lists all the photos you should never share on social media, including:

    *Any picture of your kid in front of the school where you can see the school’s name.

    LOL! That’s not bad! I have a few of my own that comes from the same type of thinking.

    A hypochondriac goes to the medical clinic to get the results of his x-ray, and the doctor says ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know why, but I cannot see any evidence of disease and I do not know what to do next’ . . . The hypochondriac, who is always willing to help with his own treatment then says ‘Have you thought of getting your eyes tested.

    I’ve already diagnosed myself on the internet. I’m only going to see the doctor to get a second opinion.

    I know that I’m a hypochondriac but I’m convinced that it’s caused by a brain tumor.

    Brian, one of the worlds greatest hypochondriacs, bumped into his Dr. one day at the supermarket.
    “Doc!” Brian exclaimed, “I’ve been meaning to tell you, remember those voices I kept on hearing in my head? I haven’t heard them in over a week!”
    “Wow! What wonderful news Brian! I’m so happy for you!” his Dr. exclaimed.
    “Wonderful?” asked a dismal looking Brian. “There’s nothing wonderful about it. I’m afraid my hearing is starting to go now!

    Herman the hypochondriac began sobbing before a doctor.” I’m sure I’ve got a liver disease, and I’m gonna die from it.”
    “Ridiculous,” said the doctor. “you’d never know if you had the disease or not. With that ailment there’s no discomfort of anykind.”
    “Right,” said Herman, “those are my exact symptoms.”

  23. Beth2 August 24, 2017 at 9:11 pm #

    @Allison, that is hilarious, but I have to wonder, if they are so worried about people knowing their first name, didn’t it ever occur to them to give a fake name? It’s not like the fast food people card you. My family used to do that all the time at restaurants when waiting for a table, simply because our real last name was too hard to pronounce and spell.

  24. lollipoplover August 24, 2017 at 9:15 pm #

    Paranoia at its finest.

    My facebook feed had this article:

    https://naturalsolutionsmag.com/warning-parents-back-school-stress-harm-children/

    Parents have back to school stress??
    Not me.
    There will be some delicious bloody marys ordered to celebrate the back to routine school year! Too many warnings stress kids out. I cannot wait for school to starr after Labor Day.

  25. En Passant August 24, 2017 at 10:54 pm #

    Art wrote August 24, 2017 at 4:44 pm:

    Exif information has been around almost since the beginning of digital photography. JohnF is right. It can be very detailed, including the date, type of camera, location where the picture was taken, it can also contain digital watermarking to shut down copyright violations.

    Indeed. I’ve had cameras earlier than 2014 which embed EXIF information into the JPGs they generate.

    Depending on the specific camera, some EXIF information is set “on” by default. So YMMV.

    There is also IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) information which some cameras embed into JPG and TIFF image formats.

    IPTC information includes the subject, location, keywords and other textual information.

    As noted by commenters above, you can usually control EXIF and IPTC information generated by a digital camera when you configure the camera.

    If you don’t know what information is embedded in your camera’s images, you can find out by viewing the images with IrfanView (named after its creator Irfan Skiljan in 1996). IrfanView also allows you to embed IPTC information into existing files, or edit information already present.

    IrfanView is freeware for personal noncommercial use. It’s readily available at most any software download site you trust. It runs on every version of Windoze from 95 onward, as well as on Linux using Wine, and Mac OS X using Winebottler. It’s a very useful program for adjusting and editing your digital images.

  26. Workshop August 24, 2017 at 10:59 pm #

    Okay, after a detailed analysis of photos found on the internet, I have concluded that location data being embedded in them is a farce.

    Doesn’t happen.

    How do I know this? Because I happen to have a great control group of people who do not know anything about electronic metadata, and after looking at their photos and analyzing the metadata using the tools available to a normal person (that is, right-clicking and looking at “properties” and then “details”), none of their photos have GPS data.

    Now, can an electronic file have data embedded in it? Absolutely. I have lots of pdfs that have data markers hidden in them so that if they ever wind up on a torrent feed the company I purchased them from can suspend my account (Workshop, we know you’ve shared these files, so you have violated our terms of service). Can geolocation data be embedded into pictures? Sure, but my guess is that the ‘feature’ that allows that is generally turned off because it’s extra data that no one ever uses, and is therefore superfluous to the file, so it gets axed.

    I almost wish I had a Facebook account so I could post a bunch of pictures of my kids along with the tag “no GPS data here hahaha.”

    You know why it’s a good reason to not post photos of your kids? Because Facebook uses facial recognition systems to tag photos, creating a database of your information for their advertisers to use. We sell our digital souls for the quick dopamine rush of a few more likes.

    Lollipoplover, I am also happy the kids have started school again. My wife works part time, and now has two days a week to do work around the house. Laundry actually gets done! Dinner . . .well, I still cook, but I did come home to a vacuumed house today! Stress? Nope, not here.

  27. JTW August 24, 2017 at 11:15 pm #

    Wasn’t it only last year they screamed that posting any pictures of your child at all was tantamount to an invitation to get your child sex trafficked?
    Compared to that this is an improvement…

  28. Art August 25, 2017 at 12:07 am #

    @workshop,

    It doesn’t work like that. Without the correct viewer, like lrfan, you won’t see the full exif info.

    also

    https://www.gottabemobile.com/how-to-turn-off-location-data-for-ios-8-photos/

  29. John B. August 25, 2017 at 12:15 am #

    More insanity and more typical American OVER reaction. When my grand nephew was 10-years-old, he loved making you-tube videos and he’d always introduce himself with his first and last name (I won’t do that here without asking his permission although I’m sure he wouldn’t care if he were here to ask) while wearing his “Milwaukee Brewers” tee-shirt! So not only did the viewers know his first and last name, which is a very unique name, but they also got a great hint as to where he lived! His mom and dad weren’t crazy about the idea of Avi not remaining anonymous while making his crazy you-tube vids BUT the ironic thing is, Avi was NEVER stalked nor did he receive any visits or phone calls from predators. He’s still alive and well today attending Temple University in Philly.

    If I were a pedophile with such strong sexual urges that I could not keep them under control, why would I need to stalk kids on you-tube who live in another part of the country when there are plenty of cute kids within a 5 mile radius of my house?

    I think we need to use a little common sense here and stop over reacting to worst-first scenarios.

  30. Maura August 25, 2017 at 7:14 am #

    Wow. We just moved to suburban Philadelphia and they only just started not publishing the children’s bus stop information in the local paper this year.

  31. Steve N August 25, 2017 at 9:42 am #

    I used to post comments on the Freakonomics blog frequently. I always used my full name — first and last. I was one of a very few people who did this. I got into several discussions on the blog with people who thought this was dangerous. Why? I still don’t understand why anybody would think that’s dangerous. Everyone is just so paranoid these days.

    My name is Steve N. . . . .I’m not sure why but I’m not going to finish that.

  32. Workshop August 25, 2017 at 9:47 am #

    So I have to go through a lot of trouble to get the information from a picture, when I could (if I were a bad guy) just go down the street to a school?

    Yeah, this doesn’t happen.
    “Could” it happen? Sure, just like the Earth could be hit by an asteroid tomorrow at 8:37am. But since that’s not likely, I’ll stick with my stance.

    Doesn’t. Happen.

  33. James Pollock August 25, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

    “I used to post comments on the Freakonomics blog frequently. I always used my full name — first and last. I was one of a very few people who did this. I got into several discussions on the blog with people who thought this was dangerous. Why? I still don’t understand why anybody would think that’s dangerous.”

    I post under my real name. Unrelatedly, I’m not shy about telling people how and why they’re wrong, when they’re wrong, and this bothers some people beyond reason. These two things HAVE intersected with a person on my doorstep, quite irate. So, for a while, I went back to commenting on the local newspaper blog under an alias. Then, my nest emptied, so that the only person who might open the door on an irate and irrational Internet person would be me, and went back to just using my own real name.

    “So I have to go through a lot of trouble to get the information from a picture, when I could (if I were a bad guy) just go down the street to a school?”
    You’re assuming that to a bad guy, any child is as good as any other child. That’s not true. Most of the people who kidnap children want specific children, not just the first little house apes that cross their path. On the other hand, most of the people who kidnap children already know where to find the children they’re interested in, and don’t need to analyze photos to get clues.

  34. Lyndsay August 25, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

    When my daughter was in first grade, our transportation department was having issues and our neighborhood had what felt like a different bus driver every week. When second grade started and the new driver introduced himself, I said to the mother of four across the street, “I’m glad they fixed that, I was never comfortable with the revolving cast of drivers.” Completely serious, she said, “I know. How did we know it wasn’t some nut who rented a bus and was just driving around picking up kids?” All I could do was stare. I meant that my daughter is easily distracted and without a regular bus driver, she was likely to miss her stop and no one would notice.

  35. Suze August 25, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

    I can remember when my son was younger, all the paranoia about having their names embroidered on sports jackets, t-shirts etc. In fact, a child’s name shouldn’t be visible from anywhere or anything on the child or attached to the child like his back pack. I’m sure the obsessive stranger danger parents are still keeping this one going.

  36. BL August 25, 2017 at 1:16 pm #

    @James Pollock
    “These two things HAVE intersected with a person on my doorstep, quite irate.”

    I WAS NOT IRATE!!!

  37. Donna August 25, 2017 at 4:09 pm #

    If only my criminal clients ever put this much planning into their crimes …

  38. Papilio August 25, 2017 at 4:09 pm #

    @Lyndsay: “I said to the mother of four across the street, “I’m glad they fixed that, I was never comfortable with the revolving cast of drivers.” Completely serious, she said, “I know. How did we know it wasn’t some nut who rented a bus and was just driving around picking up kids?” All I could do was stare.”

    …I feel like there could be someone out there with a story about that crazy mom across the street who said something paranoid about how many bus drivers there used to be, so she replied with some sarcastic comment and the other lady just stared…! 🙂

  39. Abigail August 25, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

    @BL

    You are hilarious, that made me snort I laughed so hard!!

  40. Skip August 25, 2017 at 9:06 pm #

    Haven’t read the whole comment thread yet, but —

    – The “calling your name in the restaurant” thing — doesn’t anyone else have a “restaurant name”? For crying out loud, you don’t need to give your actual name. I’ve seen people attempt to spell their non-English name and I wanted to say — actually I did say — just give them any word that they’ll be able to spell and pronounce! My name is English and I don’t even use it. I give them something I think they’ll be able to spell and pronounce and that is distinctive enough that I can hear it. Problem solved.

    – The “don’t post pictures of the school name” thing — Oh my, someone might see the name of the school and figure out that there are — gasp! — children there. Um, duh. Isn’t that what schools are for?

    – Pictures of kids in general — if you don’t want creepy people looking at your kid’s picture, don’t post your kid’s picture in public where creepy people can see it.

    – Corollary — Creepy people on the other side of the country/globe are not likely to ever meet your child in person. Yes, it does happen, but it’s rare, which is why it makes the news when it does.

  41. Skip August 25, 2017 at 9:11 pm #

    Doggone it, forgot an anecdote. Lately I’ve been immersed in reading newspapers from 80 to 100 years ago. They’re full of little blurbs like “Mr. and Mrs. Hisname Lastname, of 123 Elm Street, are visiting her sister in OtherTown for a week.” Out of all of those, running across 20+ years, I came across only one incident that reported that Mr. and Mrs. Hisname Lastname arrived home at 123 Elm St. after a trip to find that someone had broken into their house while they were away, and the culprits cooked and ate breakfast, ironed their trousers, and made a long-distance call on the house phone before leaving.

  42. Skip August 25, 2017 at 9:21 pm #

    @Workshop, it’s a hurricane, not an asteroid, and it’s 8:37 tonight, not 8:37 tomorrow morning. 😉

    (reporting from Houston)

  43. Skip August 25, 2017 at 9:23 pm #

    Re EXIF, I think it’s possible that some social media sites may strip the EXIF info, at least the location info, from images. I don’t remember which site it was, but I’ve noticed that the images I checked on one site (from different members) were uniformly missing the EXIF info, whereas the images I checked on a different site (from some of the same users) contained the EXIF info.

  44. Alanna Mozzer August 26, 2017 at 10:54 am #

    Whose going to know what the black numbers and letters on the bus besides the employees of the bus company? Well, maybe former employees.

  45. Another Katie August 26, 2017 at 6:48 pm #

    Here in suburbia, one’s address determines which public school a student attends. School bus stop locations and schedules are public knowledge; printed in the newspaper and posted online. A truly determined hypothetical predator doesn’t need a “first day of school” photo with details on social media in order to find out where a kid goes to school or gets off the bus.

  46. Jessica August 26, 2017 at 7:58 pm #

    Another Katie
    That is such a good point that I, hilariously, didn’t even think about. My town has one elementary school, and all the kids go to it. (And I live in an area with fabulous public schools, so private schools are almost nonexistent.) It doesn’t take any sleuthing to know where these kids attend school.

  47. James August 28, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

    @Skip:

    “– The “calling your name in the restaurant” thing — doesn’t anyone else have a “restaurant name”? For crying out loud, you don’t need to give your actual name.”

    No, I don’t. I also don’t worry at all about it. First, my name is extremely common; the odds of someone figuring out who I am by that name are nil. Even if I had an uncommon name, it wouldn’t worry me, though. I’m just not that paranoid. If someone wants to find me to hurt me they will, regardless of what name I use to purchase food. I’ve been on a hit list. Dude didn’t need to go through convoluted James Bond crap. He and I spoke a few times, he snapped, and I was on the list sitting beside the rifle when the police showed up.

    Besides, the staff gets to know your legal name AND credit card information. These people are often underpaid, low-skilled workers (no offense; I was there at one point). If you’re worried about other diners hearing your name and not the staff knowing that information, you’re not paranoid, you’re an idiot.

    (Please note that I do agree with the rest of your statement–if I had a name that was difficult to pronounce, I’d probably opt for using a different name in such circumstances just because it’s easier than trying to figure out what the staff is saying.)

    As for photos in general, I can see where this idea is coming from: basic informational security includes not presenting two pieces of identifying information at the same time. So if you have a list of names and SSNs, you don’t put them both on the same paper at the same time. If you do, there are all kinds of legal requirements you have to abide by. That said, the idea that knowing your kids’ school district falls under that umbrella is insane. If you’re posting on social media anyone interested in your kids doesn’t need to have school bus information to do something to them–they already have enough information. But worrying about the 1-in-100,000,000 event is a waste of time.

    If you drive your kids to school, but don’t post photos of them because “something may happen”, you are acting irrationally.

  48. David N. Brown August 29, 2017 at 1:35 am #

    Late, but for what it’s worth, it DOES make sense to conceal where one’s kids go to school. But the people you really want to hide it from are trolls, stalkers, and the odd cybervigilante, all of whom love posting info on other people’s children (see Richard Morton Scoville, all of the above). Put the same creeps in a real-li’ve confrontation, and the odds are 99.99% they’ll run even from a kid.