If you’re anywhere on social media, you’re probably no stranger to the daily kiddie pics of everyone’s children.
Trust me, I’m right there with you. I currently have SEVENTEEN (not exaggerating) friends who are pregnant with babies and giving birth sometime in the next 90 days. My feeds are full of kids, and while I love seeing each of these babes grow up and learn new things, I often wonder about their safety—not because my friends are bad parents, but simply because these children’s lives are being freely showcased on social media.
Hashtags have been around for a while, but something I’ve seen as more and more of my friends continues to have kids are hashtags of their children’s names. I’m not talking, #Sarah. No, I’m talking FULL names: #JonahAndrewSmith.
The Internet is a scary place, and for years we’ve been told to protect our teenagers and monitor our kids’ Internet usage. But what about protecting those who don’t yet use the Internet? Online predators aren’t limited to targeting a select group of society like middle school girls. No, they prey on parents, and even the most innocent photos of your kids could be the fuel these sickos are looking for. What do online predators look for?
In 2016, an Australian website made world news when explicit photos of local schoolgirls were being traded amongst users. Other sources and fan pages even started offering money to users who could find more photos of their “favorites.” Unbelievably, the worst part isn’t even the fact that these girls are now being targeted, and their photos are being sold and traded by perverts, but rather that their images have been used without consent, and it’s very well possible that these girls are completely oblivious.
I mean, why wouldn’t they be? You don’t know when someone uses one of your photos on social media, hence the entire premise around MTV’s “Catfish.”
In cases like this where photos of minors are being sold and traded through pedophile rings, it’s oftentimes impossible for police to locate you if photos of your child are being used. Technological advances are like a double-edged sword. Predators have the ability to mask their IP addresses, use servers overseas, and completely hide their identity. There are even websites that teach online predators how to cover their tracks.
So what does this mean for us as parents? Don’t ever post a photo of your child again?
Well, no. We all know the risks of social media, so start by increasing your privacy settings.
If we’re being honest, there’s no reason for someone who doesn’t know you in real life to need to know what your family looks like. Your friends get your updates while keeping those who you’ve not accepted—out.
Beyond that, there are some things you should know about the types of photos you post of your children.
Erin Cash is a woman with 12 years of experience in the Queensland Police force. She’s worked as both a detective in pedophile and child abuse task forces.
In a powerful blog post that’s taken her more than 10 years to write, Erin shares some powerful advice on what parents need to know.
“It has taken over a decade for me to write this post because I know that I will have re-visited images and situations from my career that haunt me,” wrote Erin.