How to protect your children's privacy online from 'digital kidnappers'

Parents love posting about their kids on social media, but experts said those pictures and status updates could put children's privacy at risk. (FOX5)

Parents love posting about their kids on social media, but experts said those pictures and status updates could put children's privacy at risk.

Like many moms, Mimi Wachter of Henderson uses social media to keep friends and relatives in the loop about what her six-year-old daughter is up to.

"We have family in California and Pennsylvania and Vietnam so it's our one way of showing, 'Hey, this is what we did, this is how she's growing up.' These are things friends and family really want to know," Wachter said.

But cyber security experts said parents may want to think twice before they post.

"Parents have to be aware of what they're sharing online and how public that is," Shannon Wilkinson with Axiom Cyber Solutions said.

Brent Watkins was a special agent with the FBI. He said online predators may be looking through anyone's posts.

"I've done cases where I found a predator's car at a park with pictures of probably 10, 15, 20 kids in there and those pictures obviously came from social media," Watkins said.

Not only could bad guys use this information to kidnap kids, but there's also a disturbing new trend called "Digital Kidnapping." That's when Internet users steal photos of kids and repost them to their own accounts, sometimes claiming to be their parents.

"Some of these people are not what you'd call stable, so that would be my major concern. You just don't know what these people are going to do with these pictures in that fantasy life they might be leading."

So how much information can we dig up about a child, just by looking at their parent's social media accounts?

Shannon Wilkinson from Axiom Cyber Solutions showed what we could discover about Wachter's family without even being her friend on Facebook.

"A couple of things that we can figure out real quick is that she's married to Sean and you can also very easily get to Sean's profile they live in Henderson and they have a first grader."

We also found out her daughter's name, nickname, a few of her interests.

"Quite a few of the posts are geo-located, especially when they're at their home those are all geo-located to the house."

The good news is there's no address listed for Mimi's house. But because she geo-tags pictures, we can see where she's been.

"I can go to Mimi's profile and find out where she's checked in." "It'll basically show me everywhere she's been."

That includes her family's favorite restaurants and where they go for tutoring and music lessons.

After becoming friends with Wachter on Facebook, Wilkinson was even able learn the name of her daughter's babysitter.

"It was surprising what you guys found out," Wachter said.

But parents like Watcher can keep protect their children's privacy online.

On Facebook, Wilkinson said change privacy settings so only friends can see profiles and posts.

"We're going to go ahead and click limit the past posts so only your friends can see the past posts," Wilkinson said.

She also suggested categorizing Facebook friends in lists and only sharing photos of kids with friend groups who are trustworthy. She also said to be careful about posting patterns that someone could pick up on.

"If every Tuesday you pick up your child and go to the ice cream store, be aware of posting that all the time. Because if somebody is stalking you or your child, they would be able to establish that pattern by stalking you through social media."

Wachter said it gives her more to consider each time she gets ready to hit “share.”

"You get sheltered and you think it's just your friends and everyone’s high fiving and liking and loving it. You don't think that there's always going to be a seedy part of social media and internet too"

Cyber security experts said when doing spring cleaning, also take time to clean through social media accounts by deleting friends who users no longer talk to and making sure information is only being seen by trustworthy people.

Are your social media posts putting your child’s safety at risk? Coming up on @FOX5Vegas at 4 what info our cyber security expert dug up just by looking through a local mom’s Facebook page.— Faith Tanner (@FaithTannerTV) May 9, 2018

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