There is a disturbing trend that is gaining popularity that you may want to pay attention to. It’s called “digital kidnapping”, and it happens when someone you don’t know downloads the pictures you have posted to various social media sites and creates their own social media profile using your kids pretending they are their own. You can imagine how it must feel for someone else to go around pretending your kids was theirs! Most people would probably freak out. Watch this clip from the Today show…
So, what can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones?
First, make sure the privacy settings on anything you share are set to the level you are most comfortable with. Instagram can make your entire account private, so that no one can see your pictures but the people you approve. Facebook can do the same, but you can get even more granular with Facebook, so there might be some photos out there that are open to the public. The best way to check this is to open Facebook on a desktop (mobile is ok too, but sometimes it’s easier to find all the options on the desktop). Click the little lock icon on the top blue bar near your name. There is a great simple privacy checkup you can run to see who can see various things about your profile.
Once you’ve set the general settings, you can preview what your profile page would look like to the general public by visiting your profile page, and then clicking the three dots at the bottom right of your cover photo. Select “view as” It should show you exactly what your profile would look like to someone who isn’t your friend. Click on the photos tab and you can see which pictures are available for public view. Any pictures that show up here that you would not like to be visible by the public, you can then click on the image and adjust the privacy for that particular picture by clicking the globe icon next to the date the picture was uploaded and changing who can see the image.
Once you have the privacy settings corrected on all of your various social media profiles, you can do a reverse image search on Google. It’s not going to be perfect, but it could help. Simply visit google.com and click on “images” at the top right. Click the camera icon in the Google search bar, and then choose “upload a photo”. Find a good picture of your child’s face and upload it. It should show you “similar pictures” so you can see if there are any out there. If you find any, be sure to report the image to the appropriate social platform.
While you could have the privacy settings of a person on witness protection, nothing is going to be perfect. Please be careful what you share online, because ANYTHING can be used for other purposes. I’m not saying this to scare you into never sharing another picture of your child online again ever. Cause heavens knows there are a ton of pictures of my kids out there. So don’t hide your head in the sand and vow to delete all social media platforms. Social media is fun, it’s a great way to share! Just be smart about who you are sharing with, and don’t post anything too embarrassing of your kids… they’ll have their own accounts some day, and trust me, their friends WILL be googling them.
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