Watching your kid jump back on the school bus this year can bring up lots of fears, what-ifs, and worst case scenarios. Moms and Dads across the country, we totally get your stress. There is no shortage of safety concerns to worry about, from school shootings and child trafficking to more logistical errors like getting off at the wrong bus stop. But, one former FBI mama headed to TikTok to share her school safety tips this back-to-school season to put your mind a bit more at ease.
On her account, “The Unexpected Spy,” Tracy Walder shares safety tips that parents can use right away, but she isn’t one to pass judgment, she explains, if you haven’t been following these ideas or do it a different way. “Being a mom is hard enough…so no judgment here…if you do these things,” she says.
But, parents everywhere might want to listen up — she’s learned a few things in her five years as a former CIA officer and FBI special agent, after the Delta Gamma sorority sister and USC students she was recruited at a college job fair.
First, she dives into where your child’s personal information should and shouldn’t be posted on their backpacks. While it’s our tendency to strip off a big piece of duct tape and label their names front and center in case their bag is lost, that’s a mistake, she suggests.
Instead, put it on the inside of the bag, along with your address, which shouldn’t be obvious either. One commenter was a bit too late to this advice, posting, “Ugh, I just ordered a new backpack from pottery barn w [sic] name on it.” Another parent said their child wanted beads in her hair with the letters in her name, but the parent “refused” and used random letters, they wrote.
“It’s something strangers can see and refer to a child by their name, and make them feel comfortable,” she says. In addition, instead of writing your cell phone number on the bag, teach children to memorize it, if possible, as she’s done with her daughter. “But if your kid doesn’t, I get it, it’s really hard. Put it on the inside of their backpack as well,” she says. Some commenters pushed back a bit, noting that the schools require names and bus info hanging off tags on the backpacks, or prominently displayed, making this one hard for some to follow.
Next, she suggests an AirTag, placed in the backpack, or worn on a wristband, to know where your child is at all times. She uses the wristband, which she linked to in her video and has “kid friendly colors” and proceeded to answer many commenter’s questions about the purpose of it, stating it’s an “extra layer of security.” She uses the bracelet at amusement parks, but the AirTag in the backpack for school. Some parents expressed concern about whether other people would be able to locate the child too.
Many reports acknowledge that parents have not only been tagging their kids, in spite of Apple originally stating it’s not for kids or pets — Washington Post says, “The small print isn’t stopping people.” But, if airtags aren’t for you, they also report that only 10 to 15% of abductions are from strangers rather than a family member.
Finally, she wants parents to think twice before posting their child’s school location accidentally or on purpose on social media. “I have 2 Instagram accounts…one private one public,” she says. “It’s a personal choice whether to share pictures of children. Don’t post the location of your child’s school. You don’t know who can see this information. I get it, it’s the internet, someone can probably look up that information. I just don’t want to make it easy for them.”
Thanks to this supermom who’s been “assuming aliases, thwarting terrorist attacks, and hiding in the trunks of cars on her way to debrief terrorists at black sites” for helping us do just that, and keep our kids safe this back-to-school season.