While many of us turn to Instagram to share the best shots from our families' holidays, vacations, and weekend adventures, an alarming new trend may have you thinking twice before making your next post. Digital role-playing with stolen kids' photos is on the rise, according to Fast Company, and unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot that can be done to stop it.
Here's how it works: Instagram users — most of whom are teenage girls — are taking pictures of children from all over the web and reposting them with fake names and details as their own. For instance, a post from the account adoptionrp featured a photo of a baby girl with the caption "Name: Caitlyn; Age: 1; Likes: red, flowers, headbands; Dislikes: Strangers." Other Instagram users then submit comments like "You're so cute!" and "What's your favorite color?" Harmless enough, but still quite creepy to have a dialogue running amongst strangers about your nonconsenting child.
"The idea that an adolescent can create an identity online and take advantage of that anonymity does not surprise me," says psychiatrist Gail Saltz, author of Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Secret Life. "It's more exciting to be testing these fantasies online and not in their minds because there's some follow through online and yet they're behind the safety of their computer in their bedroom . . . These role players have a desire to try on the fantasy of being a family person, a mother, whatever it might be that they're searching for or void they're trying to fill."
Since the activity falls into a sort of a gray area in relation to Instagram's rules and regulations, there's little that the network can do, or is doing, to put an end to it. Something to consider the next time you upload your newborn's first smile or 7-year-old's soccer game.