A Georgia mother discovered a stranger posted an Instagram photo of her 18-month-old son while claiming he was hers.
Lindsey Paris, the child's mother, said, "It's like playing house online with other people's children. I was totally panicked. I didn't know what they were doing. I didn't know what to do next. She was saying things like 'Isn't my child so cute?' And others would say 'I know. I love the red hair,’” 9 News reports.
When Paris contacted the user, the photo was removed .
Reports indicate the picture is one of many stolen images like this out there.
Coined "baby role playing," or digital kidnapping by some, pre-teen and teenage girls are increasingly posting photos of other people’s children and pretending they are the parents.
One only needs to type in the hashtag "#BabyRP" (without the quotes) on Instagram to find hundreds of other cases like this.
Child advocacy group Fighting For All Kids started a petition to get Instagram to put the squeeze on role-playing accounts using their site.
“Some of the role playing is harmless, but some of it includes violence and sex acts with the child. Often the offending account will not remove a picture when asked to do so by the parents. You can check it out on Instagram at #downwithbabyrp,” the group wrote on their Change.org petition, which did not collect the 1,500 signatures it had as its goal.
Police add that while it’s technically not a crime, they worry this underground movement may encourage sexual predators that may be lurking within the community, WBNS reports.
Sergeant Zech, who supervises an Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, said, “[P]laying fantasy, role playing, those sorts of things, eventually it doesn't satisfy these urges anymore [and] eventually they are going to act out on these urges,” describing sexual predators he’s encountered in the past. "The internet and social media has brought the predator into your household through your electronic device."
Experts now advise parents to keep photos of their children private in the meantime to avoid any possible dangers.