(CBS SF) — Parents who post photos of their kids on social media are catching on to a new disturbing trend — some have even fallen victims.
It’s called role-playing and it involves Instagram users stealing images of babies and children off the Internet, giving them a new name and often times claiming them as their own, according to Fast Company.
In some cases, these role players create entire fake families. Others will join in, commenting on photos and pretending to feed, hug and swaddle the children.
Some Instragrammers are even portraying themselves as adoption agencies by helping their followers to find babies they’d like to adopt. Then the “adoption agency” finds a photo, most likely without permission and the role-playing continues.
Frustrated parents have reached out to these offending accounts asking that they remove pictures of their children, but are often ignored. Some have even turned to Instagram, asking the Facebook company to police role-playing accounts, but without any success. A short-lived Change.org petition created by concerned parents to raise awareness on role-playing accounts ended with only 1,047 signatures.
Most of the role-players are anonymous, but those who do reveal themselves are almost always teenage girls.
Psychiatrist Gail Salz, author of Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Secret Life said it’s likely these teens came from a broken home where their parents are either divorced or they’ve been abused, and the role-playing attempts to fill a void from childhood.
Although most of it is harmless, it’s causing more parents to think twice before posting photos of their children on the Internet.