Spooky fashion sweeping the internet is forcing parents to be more careful. What is digital kidnapping, and most importantly, how to protect yourself and your little one from it?
Danica Patterson loved sharing photos of her 4-year-old daughter on social media. But one day she discovered that a complete stranger posted these photos on his Facebook page, pretending that it was his child. Under the photo there were captions: "Daddy's copy", "One day my daughter will break the hearts of your sons" - etc.
Her daughter is not the first victim of a virtual kidnapping, when a stranger steals photos of a child online and posts them under the guise of photos of their own children.
Digital kidnapping has become trendy on social media in recent years. Often, photo thieves consider this a virtual game of daughter-mothers. They create a new fictional life for a child and share its details online. Sometimes the photos are simply chosen on the Internet, sometimes they are taken from acquaintances.
Many of these photos are posted on Instagram under hashtags like babyrp, adoptionrp and orphanrp (“Roleplay kids”, “Roleplay adoption” and “Roleplay orphan”). These tags can be used to find tens of thousands of cute faces of other people's children with invented descriptions of what they like, how old they are, who their parents are.
The worst thing is that sometimes stolen photos are passed off as images of orphans looking for new parents. Under them are compassionate signatures like: "I really want to find a new family." And comments from fake adopters, fellow players.
Did we say "the worst"? No, it gets worse. Some online mother-daughter players use these photos to share their sexual fantasies. Instagram and Facebook try to remove photos and close accounts if they receive complaints about such things, but there is no guarantee that photos will not resurface elsewhere. Upload a photo online and you can no longer control its fate.
It can be difficult to hold accountable for this. But even if this is not done by scammers trying to "raise money for treatment" with the help of other people's photos, etc., but simply by "players" - you must admit, this frightens and upsets real moms and dads.
WHAT DO PARENTS DO TO PROTECT FROM SUCH SITUATIONS?
Experts say that before posting a photo on the Internet, you should make sure that there is no data on your page that would allow a stranger to find your child in real life.
1. Never add location tags to photos of family and children so that an attacker cannot find them. Who knows if he'll get carried away and go from stealing photos to actually kidnapping.
2. It is better to put watermarks on all photos, which will confirm that these are your children (there are special applications for smartphones for applying watermarks). This will make it harder for an attacker to pretend it's their child.
3. If you want to upload a photo of your child with friends to the Web, be sure to first ask permission from the parents of other children present in the picture.
4. Before posting a picture online, check the privacy settings of each social network you use. Make sure your pages are locked from strangers. You can limit the viewing of a particular photo - for example, allow only friends to view it.
5. If you put tags on the photo indicating who is in it, more people will see it. Therefore, it is better not to tag friends and family members in the photo if you do not want outsiders to own this information.
6. If you really want to share a photo of a child on the Web with family and friends, use safe photo services like Yandex. Photos, Flickr and Photobucket, which allow you to show the photo only to those with a password or a direct link. And for more peace of mind - just send the photo to your loved ones by e-mail.
What to do if your child is being threatened online