Jun 12, 2013


Instagram camera logo

Photos and videos of children are commonplace on social network pages. However, such images are used by sex offenders to find and then 'friend' unsuspecting kids. The point of the online friendship is to arrange a face-to-face meeting.

One new trend on Instagram called “role-playing” can be included in this type of dark pastime used by pedophiles.

Role-playing is an activity in which people assume the role of a character in a fictional setting and interact to create a story. This type of role-playing is typically done by fans of books/movies such as Harry Potter. Those who want to role-play on Instagram simply start their story from an image and post character actions in the description using appropriate hash tags like #roleplay.

For most involved, role-playing is a simple way to enjoy a common interest. Still, if your child is interacting with strangers online to role-play, you should know about it. If your child participates, be certain to approve the topic of discussion and ask her not to share any personal info.

The most alarming aspect of role-playing on Instagram is not that a child is involved. The disturbing condition occurs when a child predator role-plays and uses the image of a child as a springboard for writing inappropriate scenarios. Such images are often copied without permission from a young Instagramer with loose privacy settings. What’s worse, the child's image doesn’t have to be suggestive in any way for someone to use it as the basis for a pornographic discussion.

What can you do to protect your child?

  1. Make sure your child’s social network accounts are private, so photos can’t be copied or shared inappropriately.
  2. Make sure your child is friends with people they know and trust (or that you know and trust).
  3. Teach your child common sense when it comes to what types of things are appropriate to share online.
  4. Openly discuss why rules are helpful. Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about online dangers.

Parents must be vigilant in monitoring their child's access and interaction on social networks.  Unfortunately, most parents don't have time to thoroughly monitor one social network, let alone three or four.

A category of software tool has emerged called "Facebook monitoring" or "Facebook parental control software." These products help parents track a child's friends, pictures and posts on social networks. For lists of products from third-party review sites, go to TopTenReviews.com, PCMag.com, or CNET.com.

Russ Warner

CEO of ContentWatch, makers of Net Nanny Social