Is Your Child the Next Victim of Digital Kidnapping?
Have you posted a cute photo of your child on social media lately? Most of us will answer with a resounding “Yes!” and this is the issue. How well do you control who else sees (and maybe obsesses) over your perfect child? Yes, Digital kidnapping is real. People “stealing” your child from your social media feed and using her for their sick obsessions.
After all, we love sharing pivotal moments like when a child learns to walk, masters the big boy potty, celebrates a special birthday, wins an award, attends prom, and the list goes on and on. While it’s alright to be proud of our children, we need to step back and seriously analyze the information we are sharing with the world about our kids. While it appears innocent to post photos and information, predators and identity thieves love the amount of information we are giving them on a silver platter.
Take a moment and consider the fact that by the time a child turns two, 90 percent of toddlers already have a social media presence. And, it’s not because they are joining Snapchat or Facebook in droves. Our kids can’t even read or write their own names, yet we are the ones creating their digital footprint without approval or consent. And, at times, without regard for how really nasty people use photos of our kids for horrible things.
The Case for A Child’s Web Privacy
We all understand the need to keep our personal information private and to avoid compromising photos on social media. However, when it comes to our kids, we often overlook these basic digital safety precautions. We post photos of our kids in their school uniforms, where they attend daycare, broadcast what parks we enjoy visiting, their birthdays, full names, and our devices even check in our physical locations on a regular basis.
One drawback to all this connectivity, is that predators can easily target and track our children simply by monitoring our social media activity.
To put this in perspective, a “Kids for Privacy” campaign has recently garnered a lot of attention and is hoping to raise enough awareness so we understand our kids have a right to digital privacy. This organization’s purpose is to inform parents that pedophiles and child predators are searching through hashtags to find images of our boys and girls. Those #pottytraining and #bathtime might make it easier to sort and share. But for the wrong crowd, these filters make it easier than ever to access images of children.
And, no parent wants their child to become a victim.
It’s also important to note, the precious images of our children can be digitally “kidnapped”. This trend involves people taking photos of young children from a stranger’s profile and then the fiend reposts them, claiming the children as their own sons and daughters.
According to parentmap.com:
“Digital kidnapping is when a stranger steals a minor’s photo from the internet and posts the photo as if it’s their own. They then post these photos across their social media accounts and revel in the “likes” and comments they receive. There are even a set of social media hashtags that can accompany such pictures, indicating to viewers that the poster is role playing and creating a faux life outside their real word. These hashtags may include, #adoptionrp, #orphanrp, and #babyrp.”
An article that profiled a real digital kidnapping case explained the bizarre digital kidnapping sub-culture that exists, with many kidnappers actually being females, who use the photos to participate in a virtual game of make-believe motherhood. Others participated in virtual adoption agencies, where “moms” bid on photos. Some disturbing users in these digital and fake adoption agencies fixate on the child’s nudity or breastfeeding. And even worse, documented accounts of Instagram photos of children being used for sexual role play.
It’s Time to Take Social Media Privacy Seriously
Following the recent congressional hearing with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, over how they managed our user data with Cambridge Analytica, many people are starting to notice the importance of web privacy. YouTube was recently named in a court case where child advocacy organizations accuse the video giant of violating the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act, “deliberately profiting off luring children into an “ad-filled digital playground” where commercials for toys, theme parks or sneakers can surface alongside kid-oriented videos.”
Five important questions for parents to ask about web privacy:
(1) When my children become adults, will they appreciate every photo that I’ve posted of their life and every hashtag I’ve used in those photos? [If not, then be more selective]
(2) Is there something selfish in me that uses pictures of my children to get personal attention? [If so, then change your behavior]
(3) Do my kids constantly see me taking pictures of them and posting them online? [If so, then I’m not modeling the right digital behavior]
(4) Have I recently performed an audit of the privacy settings on my devices? [If not, then let’s do that now! Look below.]
(5) Have I recently performed an audit of the privacy settings on my child’s devices? [If not, then let’s do that now! Look below.]
Adjusting Privacy Settings on Major Social Media Platforms and Devices
You might choose to adjust privacy settings from the list below on both your phone and the devices used by your kids.
Snapchat Privacy Settings:
Instagram Privacy Settings:
Pinterest Privacy Settings:
Twitter Privacy Settings:
Facebook Privacy Settings:
Musical.ly Privacy Settings:
Apple iOS Privacy Settings:
Thank you April Requard for this awesome infographic.
Android Privacy Settings (Oreo Build):
– WIRED Magazine recently wrote a lengthy piece to help users, since many Android privacy settings are turned off by default.
Avoid enabling others, protect your children, and please take web privacy seriously.
Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be.