Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles beware! There's a very creepy new trend happening on the Internet. I can barely believe it, but it's true. We all knew our privacy was up for grabs on the Web, but we never thought that our children would be exploited this way. And it's not just children, it's babies.
Have you heard of Instagram? It's the mega-popular photo sharing app that Facebook purchased two years ago for a billion dollars. It's now one of the largest social networks online.
There's a growing community of people on Instagram who are stealing baby pictures and passing them off as their own. This is what I'm talking about:
These Instagrammers represent a creepy new community called baby role-players. They take photos of babies from the Internet and pretend that they're their own. Fast Company has more:
Sometimes they create entire fake families. Others then interact in the comments of each photo, role-playing as they virtually feed, burp, swaddle, and even reprimand these virtual children. Some Instagrammers even portray themselves as virtual adoption agencies, where followers can request specific babies and toddlers they’d like to adopt--“Looking for a two-year-old girl with blonde hair, green eyes, and who is feisty”--and the adoption agency then finds a photo, usually without permission. Role playing ensues.
Here's another twisted baby photo theft from the role-playing adoption agency:
So what can you do about this? Concerned parents who have contacted Instagram have met with little to no success. Because the users who are doing this are mostly anonymous, it can be very difficult to track them down yourself. Even then, the best you can do is to ask, beg, demand and plead that they take down the photos. There's not much you can do at this moment.
That's why it's so important to be very, very careful about what you post online. More and more parents are choosing not to post baby pictures on public social media pages. If you want to share pictures of your kids with your friends and family, use email or very strict privacy settings on Facebook and Google+.
If you use Instagram, make sure you set your profile to private, otherwise every photo you post is completely out in the open. Also, check out the story from Fast Company; it's a fascinating read.