Did you know that the average new parent posts 973 photos of their child on social media before their fifth birthday? Seems harmless, unless you're oversharing, right?
Wrong. 17% of those baby photos have no privacy restrictions at all, leaving them wide open for use in a new, online role-playing game called #BabyRP. It's stealing baby photos for "virtual adoptions," kidnapping and other made-up scenarios.
Imagine your horror to stumble across your child's photos on a random Instagram account. It has hundreds of likes and includes a fake description of your child, like name and birthday and some details about their personality, in hopes that the child gets "adopted" by a loving family.
That's exactly what happened to one mother named "Dana," who detailed the whole terrifying incident on her blog.
One day, she noticed that a random person had "liked" hundreds of her son's photos on Instagram. Thinking this was strange, Dana clicked through to the admirer's profile, only to find that there were hundreds of photos of her son on this random account.
Turns out, her son was part of a baby role-playing game, #babyRP, in which players jump into the comments sections of photos and make up scenarios. One scenario had the boy kidnapped, tied up, and had "ordinary citizens" finding the kidnapper's vehicle and following them.
Dana immediately put her Instagram account on private and messaged the role-playing account, asking it to remove the photos of her son. That only made it worse.
Since the request was made, Dana noted that the role-playing account just ramped up the amount of photos of the boy it used. Dana would leave several comments on photos, asking for removal, but they were quickly deleted.
Her next move was to contact Instagram directly, but the company must have misunderstood the situation: "I received a response from them within a couple days saying that MY account violated their terms because my son was under 18 years old and that I needed to report my own username because it belonged to a minor," she said.
Calling police also did no good. Many of the fake accounts are overseas, so police can't do much.
So what's the bottom line? You've got to take matters into your own hands before it's too late. Make sure your Instagram photos are set to private. Under the Settings "gear" icon, and toggle on "Private Account."
- Keep your baby photos private on Facebook, too. Use Facebook's Privacy Checkup for a walk-through of your basic privacy settings.
- Privacy Checkup is a great way to cover the privacy basics, but there's more you can do. Here are step-by-step instructions to completely lock down your Facebook privacy.
- What are your kids doing online? If you aren't confident you know the answer, you ought to be. Click here to protect your kids from online dangers.