In the age of information, as a parent, you do any and everything that you can to protect your kids from the cyber predators and dangers lurking out there. You have open conversations with them about it, limit how they can use their technology and set privacy settings that prevent them from reaching content that they shouldn't be accessing. It can be very upsetting when you've done all of this but it's still not enough. When all of your hard work and extra precautions end up being in vain and you don't have as much control when it comes to protecting your family as you thought you did.
That's how Andrea Van Wagner, felt when she discovered pictures of her 9-year-old son, Cole, that she'd taken of him in his wrestling singlet posted onto someone else's Instagram page. Andrea is a professional photographer and had taken pictures of her son at a wrestling event and posted them onto her public Instagram page. Shortly after posting her these pictures, she noticed that an account that she didn't follow or recognize had liked her pictures and was following her Instagram account.
Curious, she went to the profile of Instagram user @ilikestrongkids50 and was shocked at what she found. In an interview with TODAY Parents, she said "It was creepy. There were like 4,000 pictures of all these kids, all very athletic with their shirts off and some doing modeling poses or flexing their arms." Andrea was even more disturbed that there were two pictures of her son in the collection.
Andrea told NBC News that while the pictures didn't show any private parts, seeing them all together in a collection made her feel like something about the page was wrong. She messaged the user asking him why he had pictures of her son as well as other pictures of "half-naked children" and his response to her was that he doesn't post porn. Andrea's mom senses were on high alert and she immediately contacted Instagram. Instagram was slow to act but eventually disabled the account of ilikestrongkids50 after Andrea contacted a local TV station.
Instagram provided NBC News with a statement saying that they're constantly working to prevent this type of behavior and to detect these accounts faster. They went on to say that they use a technology that removes inappropriate material that is known to them that that proactively detects child nudity.
Experts advise parents to make sure that their privacy settings on Instagram and other social media accounts are set to private. The default setting is public which means that anyone can view and access photos that you've posted.
Parents should also always be careful with the pictures that they post and have the understanding that the internet is a public domain. Parents should also be careful with the hashtags they use as they can alert potential predators to the types of content they're looking to find in an easier way as well as avoid posting locations that could let anyone know where you are.