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Guardians of Safety: Hidden Dangers of Sharing Kids' Photos Online - Part 1

Barbara Patch
Posted by Barbara Patch on Mar 5, 2024 10:48:49 AM

Image this...

You're scrolling through Instagram and you see the face of your adorable 10-year-old niece, cute as a button at her friend's pool party.

A pedophile sees an object for his twisted desire. He immediately starts hunting for more pics of her, downloads several, and considers researching where her family lives...


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Social media is a great gift!  With a few swipes and taps, a parent can quickly share precious moments of a child with family and friends near and far. Yet with great power comes great responsibility, and the current landscape of "sharenting" is fraught with more danger than ever before.

The Risks Are Real
As early as 2014, concerns about ways children might inadvertently be harmed through pictures and information shared by a parent online started to arise. Initial discussions focused on children's rights to privacy and the risks of having data and images of minors in public and permanent spaces. Today, both immediate and long-term risks have the potential to impact every area of a child's life:  physical, financial, relational, emotional, and mental.

Some of the long-term dangers include:
- Potential embarrassment as the child grows and matures
- Resentment over a parent's lack of protection/violation of privacy
- Anxiety or depression that comes when the child's everyday experiences deviate from the "highlight reels" shared on social media
- Emotional distress that arises when the child feels pressure to meet the parent's demands and expectations
- Formation of a detrimental mindset within the child who feels objectified and starts to believe that his or her worth is based on appearance, performance, or achievements
- Data collection tactics from social media information and activity (likes/dislikes) help aggressive marketers target children before they are mature enough to make wise purchasing decisions
- Identity theft can occur from information shared in posts

The immediate dangers can be horrifying:
- Sick people use the image of your child from your feed for their own perverted activities
- With a tool that costs as little as $39, a person with view access can copy a child's image, modify it for immoral purposes, and disseminate it across the Internet. Once out there, it is nearly impossible to get the sexualized image of your child removed from every place it landed.
- Predators who become obsessed with your child may attempt to gain direct access to him or her. If that happens, the predator will then try to isolate the child and start grooming them for sexual activity.
- Predators who find you may extort or threaten you to get money or more racy images or videos of your child
- Digital "kidnapping"  According to, “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.”

How to Protect Your Child

The best defense is to never post. However there are ways to protect you and your child(ren) from harm. Here are some ideas.
1. Ponder before you Post. Why do you want to share this image? Will your child thank you later in life for sharing it? Does the pic reveal anything that could lead someone to you or your child?  When he or she is old enough, ask how your child feels about you sharing information about them and the types of content/emphasis in the posts. To build or enhance trust and mutual respect, review historical posts with the child and remove any that cause concern.
2. Set and maintain the highest privacy settings on all platforms where you post. Ensure images are only viewable by close family and friends, and ask them NOT to repost, tag, or forward onto others. Have a trusted acquaintance review your Facebook, Instagram, and other feeds to verify images you post are not viewable by the public. Stay up-to-date on new features on platforms you use and remain diligent to any new privacy settings that need to be addressed.
3. Don't reveal your location in posts or images.
4. Remember: no child is TOO YOUNG to attract a predator. Save the cutie-patootie pics of your little one for in-person-only views to trusted relatives.
5. Practice consent and respect before sharing pics of others. When they are old enough, discuss digital safety with children. Teach them not to share pictures of themselves or others, especially without the consent of everyone involved. Model respectful behavior by seeking permission before posting a pic of a child.


If you or your child is contacted by an online predator - DO NOT TRY TO HANDLE IT ALONE.  This article by the Child Rescue Coalition discusses three steps to take, including:

1. Document everything
2. Contact law enforcement and follow their instructions, including when and how to report the issue on the platform where it happened.
3. Report the incident to the hotline of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC):  1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678)


Thank you for reading!  This blog is Part 1!  Stay tuned for two additional posts that delve deeper into potential risks.

Check out these additional resources:

Topics: Anti-Exploitation, Online Exploitation, Social Media

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