A mother is warning other parents to be careful when posting photos of their kids online, after a photo of her son was found on an alarming Instagram account.
US photographer Andrea explained in a public Facebook post that she had a public Instagram account for her work which was public for business purposes.
Andrea wrote in the Facebook post, which she wrote to warn other parents, that she mainly takes photos of children playing sport.
After posting a photo of her own nine-year-old son, Andrea saw that one of the accounts which had “liked” her photo, had a disturbing Instagram handle, which quite literally stated they had a preference for “strong kids”.
Andrea went to the profile, after being alarmed by the name. She had to request to follow the private account.
Once she was able to see what was posted on the account, Andrea found over 4,000 photos of children, aged between six and 13. Some of the kids reportedly had their shirts off.
Two photos of her own son had been posted on the account.
“I messaged the person asking why he has pictures of my son and other half naked kids,” Andrea said.
“He responded that he doesn't post porn.”
“It's not a kids porn site, but I know it's a site that are a collection of kids that lure pedophiles,” she wrote on Facebook.
The account eventually blocked Andrea, but she “knows the photos of her son are still up there”.
“The pictures alone are not inappropriate, but when I see them in a collection like the one he has, my stomach is turning and I can't think of anything else,” she said.
Former Victoria Police officer Susan McLean told Yahoo News Australia these scenarios are the sad reality of posting photos of your children online and parents shouldn’t be shocked.
Ms McLean spent 27 years in the Victorian Police Force and then went on to establish Cyber Safety Solutions. She is considered to be Australia’s foremost expert in cyber safety.
Not too long ago, a woman in Australia contacted Ms McLean after she found photos of her children on unsavoury sites. The woman uses her children to promote her online clothing brand.
“It’s common, it is happening in lots of places,” she said.
“Parents need to understand that they are the gatekeepers of their child’s digital footprint for most of their young life.
“So they need to be thinking about what they’re posting of their children and of course, what is cute to you, is very attractive to other people.”
Ms McLean says parents who share plenty of photos of their children online, are creating problems for both themselves and their children.
“We want parents to understand the risk, understand that the internet is full of creepy people, be mindful of what you post and share, and limit the exposure of your children online.”
Act if you see something ‘dodgy’
At the time of posting the message to Facebook, Andrea said she had reported the account to Instagram and contacted the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. She was also writing a report for the police.
According to CBS8, when Andrea contacted Instagram she received a response detailing the lengthy process she would have to go through to get the picture removed. Instagram did say they were investigating. It now appears the account has since been removed.
Ms McLean said if content is reported to Instagram, they will investigate and if there is evidence of child exploitation, they will report the material to police.
“Act if you see something,” Ms McLean said. “Don’t just go ‘oh, that’s dodgy’.”
Although the account has been removed, Andrea still has her concerns.
“I'm just concerned that instagram will shut down his account, he'll make a new one with the exact same pictures.”
However, someone reported the account through Instagram, and posted a screenshot of the message which says the account does not violate Instagram’s community guidelines.
Ms McLean said often the way people report exploitative content is wrong, although she did stress, that may not be what happened in this case.
“It would be helpful if it was a whole lot easier, but if you misreport, for example, a lot of people make the mistake of reporting an account, when there’s nothing wrong with the account, it’s the individual stuff that’s within it.
“A lot of the time when obvious stuff is not removed, it’s because the report was done wrong. I’m not saying that was the case, but that’s very common.”
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