Experts warn parents of #hashtag dangers on social media

Experts warn parents of #hashtag dangers on social media

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - In this day and age, it’s important to for parents and guardians to monitor what children are posting online.

However, it’s also just as important for adults to be aware of the information they’re putting out there. For many parents, sharing their child’s best moments on social media is a habit, but the hashtags used along with the post could expose the children to unwanted attention and possibly put them at serious risk.

Predators can find pictures of children online, including social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, parents could be attracting more than just friends and family, drawing these predators right to their children.

The Child Rescue Coalition launched a campaign called “Kids for Privacy” in 2018. It drew attention to more than 100 hashtags the group said over-exposed kids on social media.

Some of those hashtags may seem obvious to avoid, such as #NakedChild. Still, even something seemingly innocent like #bathtimefun, #bikinikid, #pottytraining and even #naptime can be used by those looking to stalk, abduct and sexually exploit children.

Research by the coalition shows 89 percent of parents haven’t checked their privacy settings in more than a year. With that in mind, experts are urging adults to think twice before posting photos of their children.

“Think, ‘Would I be OK with this being on the billboard going down the street? Would I be OK with it with it being on a national news tonight?’ And if the answer is no, then don’t post it," said Corinne Dalelio, assistant professor for the Department of Communication, Media and Culture at Coastal Carolina University.

Research from the Child Rescue Coalition shows that by the age of 2, 90 percent of children already have a presence on social media. So, in order to help protect your child’s privacy and ensure their image doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, ask yourself these three questions:

  • Would I want someone else to share an image like this of me?
  • Would I want this image of my child viewed and downloaded by predators on the Dark Web?
  • Is this something I want to be part of my child’s digital life?

Dalelio said because most of the algorithms on social media are automated, images can easily be searched or pop up on someone’s feed through trending hashtags.

“Even if you have a private account, people may follow you and can copy pictures, can put them into different contexts or videos or whatever it may be, even just with a screenshot. So be very careful about who is following you and make sure it’s people you actually know in real life,” said Dalelio.

Dalelio is also a mom. She chooses to keep her children’s photos off of social media, realizing they could t=end up in the wrong hands.

There’s a list curated by the Child Rescue Coalition and it reveals how a child predator searches for their victims, specifically by using hashtags. One of those hashtags, #nakedbaby, turns up more than 100,000 pictures and videos on Instagram.

The Child Rescue Coalition has identified 54 million unique IP addresses worldwide sharing and downloading sexually explicit images and videos of children since 2004.

The list isn’t meant to keep you from sharing your kids milestone from those you love online, but to think twice and to make sure you know what you’re posting, who could be looking at it, and where it could end up.

If you’re just sharing with a few people, keep your accounts private. Don’t use hashtags. Sometimes it can be kind of funny and cute, but it does put it into this other space that you probably hadn’t considered,” said Dalelio.

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