Hazardous Hashtags: How you could be unknowingly exploiting your child’s image online

Local News

PROVO, Utah (News4Utah) – When Zoe Hale became a mom, she naturally wanted to share photos of her new daughter; but privacy was a big concern for her. 

Hale had a lot of followers she didn’t know. Her husband, who sang in a popular a capella group, also had a lot of followers who were strangers to him.  

“I was worried a little bit,” said Hale. “I try to avoid posting overly sensitive images.”

Hale decided to create a separate Instagram account for her daughter, with beefed up privacy settings. Only followers she knows, preferably family and close friends, can see the photos of Jackson she posts to Instagram.

“I don’t use hashtags. I try to limit the amount of audience that sees my images,” she said. 

Hazardous Hashtags

Hale is on the right track, according to warnings from the national group Child Rescue Coalition, which found hashtags are the easiest way for predators to gain access to your child’s image. Links like #nakedbaby, #bathtime and other seemingly innocent posts made by parents can easily be found using the “follow” feature on Instagram and other social media platforms. Some images of child nudity, no matter how innocent they seem, can even be flagged by social media websites. 

“There are millions of people on a daily basis trading child pornography,” said Carly Yoost, CEO of Child Rescue Coalition. While many parents may not consider the images pornographic, predators online who gain access to them could find them arousing, she said. 

For the month of April, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month, Child Rescue Coalition has launched a social media campaign called “Kids for Privacy.” Potentially harmful hashtags will be flooded with images of children holding up signs that say “Privacy Please.”

Yoost said the group found by age 2, 90 percent of children have an online presence. 89 percent of parents surveyed hadn’t checked their privacy settings on social media in over a year, Yoost added. 

She said parents who overshare images of their children online could be unwittingly exploiting their images.

In the state of Utah, the group found 239 individual IP addresses that had been investigated by law enforcement for containing child pornography, or images of children under the age of 12 engaged in lewd acts.

Yoost said that shows there is an audience for images of child nudity, and parents should take precaution. 

For more information on the “Kids for Privacy” campaign and the Child Rescue Coalition, click here

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