They’re virtually kidnapping people’s offspring.
Online predators. Putting your account on private will not stop them. Stopping hash tagging or watermarking your pictures will not stop them.
We need to face facts; once you upload a photograph of your child on Instagram it’s no longer really yours. So, you can sit here reading this freaking out, or, you accept it and start being vigilant in managing your account properly.
Although we cannot stop them, we can make it more difficult for them to virtually kidnap our offspring. Because that’s exactly what they are doing.
At least three times a week I have people message me after discovering my daughter’s photo on an Instagram Role Play account. Role Play is this ridiculous new cyber ‘game’ where people (generally teen girls) steal babies photos off the internet, change their name, post them on their feed and then pretend to be the child’s parents.
I know, stupid. However, it exists, and its popularity is rapidly growing. There are even adoption centre accounts where Role Play gamers can peruse a gallery of babies, choosing exactly the gender, race, age and eye colour of their new cyber child.
Generally these gamers are just annoying, like a three-year-old asking what the time is 2345 times a day. Much like a toddler, they are also persistently relentless and unfortunately you can’t bribe them with a Chupa Chup to make them stop. That being said, most Role Play accounts are in fact harmless; however….there are others that are not. Utilising disturbing and graphic immature language like baby talk, these impure beings discuss doing things to our children that I’d rather not repeat.
I apologise if anyone finds this confronting. I mean it is in your face and real. I find no point sugar coating something that parents need to know, especially if you are a Brand Rep (someone whose child is sponsored by a store to post pictures on Instagram) or aspiring to become one.
The risk is real. But…in truth, this risk is not just contained to Instagram. The dark side exists in our three dimensional world too, so there is no room to judge one another. I will not get into a slinging match over posting children’s photos on Instagram. But I will say, much like we will not allow terrorists to beat us, we should not let online predators win either.
People will continue to go to football matches, out for dinner and watch their favourite bands. And, people also should still be able to post their own photographs of their own children on their own accounts without negativity.
So, judgments removed, I’m going to share with you what I recommend you do to ensure your account and your babies photos are as safe as they can be. This is what I personally would do or have done, however, if you think it’s bullshit then just continue on reading for comedic value if you so desire.
Location services on your phone. You really need to turn this off when you’re posting your babies photos on Instagram. Why? Erm. Common sense people.
Setting your profile to private. Again, this is a topic that arouses a lot of debate and differences of opinions. Yes, if you have a private profile it will deter predators, however if you want to be a successful Brand Rep this really is not an option for you as most businesses need maximum brand exposure. What you can do though is set your profile to private at night, I sporadically do this as you can filter followers in the morning when you wake. This is a good way to find Role Play accounts too. Additionally, no one will even notice.
As mentioned above you need to go through your followers. I do this at least three times a week. Yes, it’s a tedious task but one that is not negotiable for me. I know I will miss some suspect accounts, but at least I have peace of mind knowing I’m doing all I can to make my photos safer. It also feels good telling people to shut their pie holes when they surmise that I just let anyone follow me. You need to look for accounts with numbers as a username, or a name with RP or RPG at the end or they often have profile pictures of Insta babies you may know.
Watermarking your photos. This once was quite an effective way of making sure your pics weren’t stolen, however with the birth of new mobile Apps watermarking can now be removed in a split second. To be honest I think it doesn’t really deter anyone at all. In fact, I believe it could lead online predators to your account. How? Well, think about this. If they saw your photo under a hash tag or somewhere else on the Internet/Instagram, you are basically leading them to your account right? Hence, I personally don’t watermark.
Hashtagging. Like I have said, it will not stop these humans but it may make it difficult for them. Online predators tend to search hash tags like #babies, #baby #babygirl #babyboy #newborn #toddler etc. They also like to search all large children’s fashion feature pages, this is a common place they look. Bear in mind though, if you no longer hash tag some of these, you may decrease your chances of gaining a large following quickly or being discovered by potential businesses. Notice I said ‘may’ here, there are huge Brand Rep accounts that don’t hash tag at all and gain their followers organically.
Search. Your Insta friends may message you when they see your bub somewhere else but you need to be proactive. Don’t be naive in thinking it couldn’t happen to you. So, every week search these hashtags; #roleplay #rpg #rpgamers #roleplaygamers #roleplaygames #adoptionrp #adoptionrpg #roleplayadoption #rp #adoptioncenter #rpadoption #rpgadoption. You need to scroll through the photos and find any that seem odd, generally I find them by noticing photos of babies I’ve seen before or even seeing my own baby. Then, once found you need to then go through all THEIR followers. This is seriously important, you will find many other Role Players that way. ‘Like attracts like’, generally they all stick together playing their sick games.
Watch this USA Today report on the phenomenon of teenage girls stealing baby photos. Post continues below.
Watch your content. As I know some people may not have even realised Role Play exists, I want to add this point. Save little baby booty shots for you and your family only, honestly, it’s just not worth the worry. Wait till your babe is 21 and then pop all that baby bum spam all over their bedroom walls, not on Instagram.
Report and block. Once you find someone stealing your photos, you will need to report it immediately. Use the ‘Impersonating Me’ option. Then, if you choose, block the user. But wait…with the birth of new Follower’s apps for phones, people can now see who blocks them. Think very hard if you want them to notice you have blocked them. It could just make them pissed off and more determined to get access to your photos. Remember it’s very easy to start a new account and you would never know if they did. I used to block but now don’t as I think it’s a greater risk to do so.
It really is such a shame there is a need for such a topic. At the end of the day we all want our children to be safe, so remove all your negative jealousy driven opinions of those that are public profiles or hash tag whores and instead let’s all be a force together. If you see suspect accounts with other children you’ve seen around, tell them don’t judge them. Use the force for good, not for gossiping or bitching about how others choose to run their accounts. If more of us did this then one day the dark side just may become that little bit brighter…
This article by @allaboutharlowrayne originally appeared on Diary Of A Brand Rep and was republished here with full permission.