Creepy stuff is happening on Instagram. As a parent, you’re not going to like it one bit. If your Instagram profile isn’t set to private, total strangers may be scouting your kid’s pics for a disturbing reason — to create a fake family.
If you’re a parent, then I already know your dirty little secret. Like me, you’re addicted to posting pictures of your kids on Instagram. Instagram is an acceptable place for parents to share endless pictures of their adorable kids outside the social constraints of Facebook. But what happens when strangers steal your kid’s Instagram pics to “play pretend?”
Here’s the gist of what’s going on: Non-celebrity Instagram parents may notice a sudden bump in followers. A new follower may find an adorable photo of your kid and like what they see. Your child’s image could be stolen and transferred to a new Instagram account, where he or she will be given a new identity.
It’s called baby role-playing, and psychiatrists believe that young tween and teen girls participate to find fulfillment and security in a new fake family. Baby role-playing communities on Instagram go all out in their interaction with the “new child” in the photo. Fast Company reports that elaborate online role-playing with stolen images may include virtually feeding, burping, swaddling and disciplining virtual children.
Okay, besides the fact that stealing a parent’s image of their kid is all kinds of wrong, I’m trying to be open-minded here. I’ve browsed some Grey’s Anatomy fan fiction. I’ve played The Sims before, back when it was as cool as my Y2K party plans for 1999. There are also regulated baby role-playing sites for adult women who enjoy playing house online, like BabyNames.com.
This all sounds fine and good — until you start digging into some of these Creepy McCreeperson baby role-play hashtags on Instagram. Examples include #babyrp, #adoptionrp and #orphanrp, where comments often take a sinister twist with an obsessive focus on breastfeeding. Stolen images used for Instagram baby role-play wouldn’t be complete without lots and lots of baby talk.
One Instagram user includes this caption with their presumably fake #babyrp sonogram picture, “If ya think it’s weird just unfollow.” Um, no. That blurry, alien sonogram happens to be a picture of someone’s actual baby in their uterus. I think it’s weird, and I also think you shouldn’t be stealing images.
Baby role-playing may start out innocent enough, but it is undeniably alarming. If you don’t want some random Instagram user stealing your kid’s picture to create a new account, change your privacy settings ASAP.