Share photos of your kids on social media? These hashtags could put them in danger
“Everybody can see it and there are some people out there that you don’t want to see this.”
CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Who doesn’t love pictures of cute babies and kids popping up in their Facebook feed?
Even more, proud parents love posting them.
But along with those photos, we found that some parents are also posting dangerous hashtags that experts say could lead sexual predators right to their children.
Hashtags like #BathTime, #PottyTime and #PottyTraining turn up millions of pictures and videos when searched on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
“I think parents, when they have young, cute kids, you want to take pictures of them and you’re gonna post them," said Carl Sullivan, Director of the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. "You’re gonna put them on Twitter and you’re gonna have hashtags that maybe you think are innocuous or innocent, and that’s not usually the case.
“You may think, ‘Oh, I’m just posting my 5-year-old doing this.’ There may be somebody out there who has other plans," said Sullivan.
Last spring, ICAC set up a four day undercover sting called Operation Memorial Dazed. Twenty-two men were arrested after they traveled to an apartment in Newburgh Heights where police say the suspects thought they were meeting a child for sex.
Sullivan says the predators ICAC catches admit to searching everywhere online for children, including Instagram and Twitter.
And sometimes parents are drawing these predators right to their own kids with dangerous hashtags.
The non-profit Child Rescue Coalition launched a children’s privacy campaign earlier this year to draw attention to more than 100 hashtags they say overexpose kids on social media.
“While this might seem cute and increase likes, it overexposes children by showcasing private moments that shouldn’t be shared with a large audience, making them vulnerable to pedophiles and sex offenders,” the Coalition wrote on its website.
“The potential harm in over-sharing private moments far outweighs the benefits, as social media is now a digital playground for dangerous pedophiles to steal and turn innocent photos of children into exploitative content with irreversible and lasting damage,” said Carly Yoost, Founder and CEO of Child Rescue Coalition.
A quick search for #NakedBaby on Instagram produces more than 100,000 pictures and videos, publicly available for anyone to view.
Child Rescue Coalition also warns against using similar hashtags, like #NakedKids, #NakedToddler and #Naked Child.
“We deal specifically with individuals trying to engage in sexual conduct with children or exploit children, and they are out there. They’re out there in more ways and places than you think," Sullivan said. "So when you do post something, maybe like #NakedBathtubPicture” or #ChildNaked, there could be people out there that are looking and searching for that.”
“Don’t put any hashtags on social media that tend to show a child not only in a compromising position but also in the way you word your hashtags that may invite sexual predators," said Sullivan. “I’d stay away from ‘potty,' ‘naked,’ ‘no bathing suit,’ anything like that.”
Aside from the potentially dangerous hashtags, Sullivan says there are types of pictures parents should just avoid sharing on social media altogether.
“Don’t post any pictures of your kid naked on social media,” said Sullivan. “If it’s a bathtub picture, don’t post it on the internet. Don’t post it on Instagram. I think parents just have to be smart when they’re putting what they’re putting, because it’s open to the public. Everybody can see it and there are some people out there that you don’t want to see this.”
A British study found most parents will post 1,500 photos of their child online before the child turns five.
Child Rescue Coalition says before sharing your child’s image on social media, ask yourself:
- Why am I sharing this?
- Would I want someone else to share an image like this of me?
- Would I want this image of my child viewed and downloaded by predators on the Dark Web?
- Is this something I want to be part of my child’s digital life?
The Coalition says once you’ve posted your child’s photo, you can’t have total control over it, so think twice about sharing something that may seem cute or innocent.
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