How I Protect my Family on Instagram

 I have been a little apprehensive about writing on this topic, but I feel its important to share my experiences with the ‘messed up side’ of instagram. I am not writing this to scare anyone, I just wish that I would have been more educated before I had to learn the hard way. So I’m going to be short, to-the-point, & completely transparent here. I started blogging shortly after Brad and I got married 3 years ago, and it became such a fun part of my life – I love sharing! Sharing happiness & inspiration, through my travels, family, and life experiences. As years have gone by, I have posted photos of the exterior of our house to share excitement in the building process, and even exposed what city we lived in to curious readers. I have posted multiple photos of my little Lucy in her diaper (etc) because I love sharing little motherhood experiences. We would also post photos while we were on vacation. I COMPLETELY put myself out there. As my following grew, I was really naive about the ‘messed up people’ on the internet. I assumed all my followers were these cute young girls, aspiring to be videographers or waiting for missionaries.. yadda yadda.. To be honest, I got caught up in the numbers and I stopped looking at WHO started following me. This is where the frightening part happened. One morning I curiously scrolled through my new followers. It was quite the traumatic experience to see what kind of messed up, and really quite evil people were following ME! I was exposed to some really icky stuff on these profiles… These people were able to view every post of my home, my life, and my BABY. A few days later I found stolen photos of my little Lucy on these accounts and they had been fooled around with on #babyrp (Baby Role Play). I have never felt so sick and vulnerable in my life. The scariest part is that these ‘messed up’ accounts were completely anonymous. During this same time period we had numerous girls show up at our house on different occasions that wanted to introduce themselves and get a picture. It was awful not knowing if one of these girls had been the ones who stole Lucy’s pictures or participated on #babyrp. There was NO way to know.. This all shook me to my core. “What have I done to myself and my family? There is no taking back what I have already exposed.” I felt the urgency to move, which was so sad because I was just starting to feel settled in our new home. Every aspect broke my heart. I was being torn in two different directions.. I wanted to so badly to just delete my account, but I also didn’t want these ‘bad guys’ to win! I felt so strongly that I wanted to be that goodness in the world! After months of going back and forth, I have decided to keep my account – with proper precaution I feel ready to continue posting. I’m ready to express awareness about everything that has happened to me, so that we can all be a little more careful here on the internet. Here are the five questions I ask myself before posting on my public instagram account:
1) Is this picture solely of my child, and showing their whole face? Does this post of my child show innocent nudity? Be strategic about how you post about your little ones. The photos that are often stolen are high quality shots, solely of the child looking straight at the camera. Avoid bathtub, diaper, underwear photos that show any type of innocent nudity. Photos that rarely get stolen have another person in them (for example: The mom or dad posing with the child), or where the child’s face is turned to the side where the viewer can’t see their entire face. Predators are drawn to photos that they they can make eye contact with their subject.
2) Does this post show that I am away from home? I would suggest to post about your vacation after you return back home. A few months ago, Brad went out of town and posted his travels. I assume that someone put two and two together, that Lucy and I were home alone. The next morning I found big boot tracks in our snow that came from the street, past our bushes and up to our windows on two different parts of our home.
3) Does this post show the exterior or the details of the interior of my home? Keep your home your safe haven! HOME OWNERS: Get in contact with the white pages and get your address off of the internet, so it is no longer public information. I was shocked when I googled my name, and my address popped up so easily.
4) Is my location setting on? Turn off ALL location settings. I thought I never had mine on, and had a shocking realization that most of my pictures had the location of our home ‘geotagged’. This is how you can double check to make sure your location is not attached to your instagram photos: Go to profile > location pinpoint tab > edit > photo thumbnails > deselect all.

5) Is this moment too special to share with the whole world? Don’t feel the need to share EVERYTHING. Only post what you feel good about posting! You can create a private account if you want those photos still printed into your Chatbooks.

83 Comments

  1. April 6, 2015 / 3:56 pm

    Oh my goodness girly! This gave me chills to read. I was so concerned about gaining followers that I didn't think of the negative side. I am going private as we speak. Thanks for your honesty.

    • August 7, 2015 / 2:27 am

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  2. April 6, 2015 / 3:56 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I don't have kids and my account isn't 'big' enough for people to basically stalk me, but I've heard of some people having similar experiences. It's so scary to think there are TOTAL CREEPS out there in the world! Makes me feel icky. I'll have to remember these in a few years when we start popping out little ones ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. April 6, 2015 / 4:00 pm

    I love this post so much! Thank you for sharing, I have been looking for information on how to keep our family safe on Instagram for awhile now. We live far away from our family and use social media to keep them updated. ๐Ÿ™‚ You're a wonderful example.

  4. April 6, 2015 / 4:08 pm

    Wow! I am so sorry this happened to you and your family. This is exactly what I was worried about once we had our little one. I don't have the following that you have, but it still scared me to think what if I don't make my Instagram private, what could happen.

  5. April 6, 2015 / 4:19 pm

    OK, boot tracks? So scary! I hope you have an alarm system, and window coverings.

    I heard about the baby role play from Rachel Talbott when Sam was first born, and it still gives me chills. I made my instagram private and hope that is enough ๐Ÿ™ :(.

  6. April 6, 2015 / 4:35 pm

    Whoa! This is crazy. I'm so sorry this happened to you guys! This post made me want to cry. I hate that there is such evil in the world and it found you guys in such a personal way. We all love your cute little family like crazy.

  7. April 6, 2015 / 4:52 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing! I am so grateful you talked about this and made me more aware ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. April 6, 2015 / 5:01 pm

    Oh my gosh. This makes me sick to my stomach. Thank you for sharing this and making me more aware.

  9. April 6, 2015 / 5:07 pm

    This is insane. People are messed up.

  10. April 6, 2015 / 5:15 pm

    Wow. I just turned my Instagram back to private. I have been blogging for a little while, and things like this REALLY make you think hard about continuing. Thanks for sharing your story! It is insane what people are capable of.

  11. April 6, 2015 / 5:21 pm

    I am so sorry those things happened to you. Social media can be a scary place sometimes. I do not have a following like you and most of my online accounts are private, but I do still worry about putting things on the internet. These are excellent tips you posted and I will be keeping these in mind and sharing with family.

  12. April 6, 2015 / 6:54 pm

    Hailey, it is so heart breaking to hear how awful this world can be. My naivety gets the best of me and I like to believe the best in people. But now, as I get closer to having children of my own, this is something I'm going to have to think more and more about. I appreciate your honesty in sharing these stories and I truly hope and pray that everything works out for you guys. People love you so much, it's too bad that people have to ruin something that is so good and full of purpose.

  13. April 6, 2015 / 7:27 pm

    Oh my goodness. This made me feel sick to my stomach for you. I had never heard of baby role play, but I'm SO glad you brought it up! I don't ever want something like that to happen with photos of my kiddoโ€“I'm hoping it hasn't already. Thank you for sharing this and also for sharing the steps you're taking to prevent it! That's really helpful.

  14. April 6, 2015 / 7:48 pm

    I'm so sorry Hailey! I remember hearing from the A Beautiful Mess e-course that Katie Shelton went through the same thing with her littles too. That's a super scary thing, but I'm glad you decided to keep your account! Your posts are always so happy and inspiring. I hope things can turn around! Praying for you all to stay safe.

  15. April 6, 2015 / 8:07 pm

    so scary hailey! hope this doesn't happen again. great advice for the future. wish y'all the best!

  16. April 6, 2015 / 9:25 pm

    I have been thinking so much about this recently. This is such great advice.

  17. April 6, 2015 / 9:37 pm

    Hey – Thank you so much for sharing this, and I'm really impressed that you used this HORRIBLE experience to change things for the better by helping the rest of us keep our kids safe. Really really thank you.

  18. April 6, 2015 / 9:45 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this! I am definitely checking my settings! I'm so sorry this happened to your family!

  19. April 6, 2015 / 10:38 pm

    Thank you so much for advice and honesty! I love following you because you help bring joy and inspiration to so many. I hope evil people never ruin that. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. April 6, 2015 / 10:54 pm

    I love this โ€” thank you so much for opening up and sharing this for the rest of us. So sorry this happened to you and your sweet family. Prayers for peace of mind to you!

  21. April 6, 2015 / 11:30 pm

    What is Baby Role Play? Were they using your images for creepy stuff? Thanks for the post. Mine is private but this is good to know. Thanks.

  22. April 7, 2015 / 12:33 am

    I have appreciated seeing your inspiration for adventure, and goodness on instagram and the blog. And just wanted to say I'm sorry those things happened as a result of your good intentions and values. I hate that that has to be countered with others bad intentions. BUT also you taking to opportunity to blog about this will help so many and is seriously good stuff. I feel you are someone who is a DOER not just a standbyer. So in conference when they talk about protecting your family. you are doing just that. The world needs people to inspire them to think about these things. #sharegoodness #youdabomb #whatmattersmost

  23. April 7, 2015 / 1:56 am

    Hailey, you are such an inspiration! It is so saddening and disgusting to realize how cruel and creepy people can be. I don't have a family of my own, but I now know better for future purposes. You are incredible. Stay safe and I wish you all the love and happiness to you and your little family!

    Sincerely, Yessica.

    http://www.yessicasarahi.com

  24. April 7, 2015 / 3:29 am

    thank you thank you thank you for sharing this. i can't say thank you enough. this honestly makes me re think what i post on instagram and makes me want to go back private. sometimes i get caught up with the whole "numbers" thing. my family comes first above anything else. this is so enlightening and helpful. can't believe the sick people in this world. ๐Ÿ™

  25. April 7, 2015 / 5:17 am

    Thank you for posting this! I am a new blogger and have felt so strongly that I didn't want my children in any of my pictures on my Instagram account, my blog, or my business Facebook account. Most people said I was being silly, but deep down I just wanted to protect the privacy of my family. Your post has validated my feelings and reminded me to be cautious with what I post about.

  26. April 7, 2015 / 7:00 am

    How did you find the stolen pictures? Did you have to skim through their filthy sites to find the pictures or is there an easier way to check if your photos were stolen?

  27. April 7, 2015 / 8:10 am

    I'm so sorry that that scary stuff happened to you! Thanks so much for sharing, this has been so eye opening. I take photos of other people's kids all the time so to know how to protect them is really useful!

  28. April 7, 2015 / 1:17 pm

    It's really sad how the good people have to do so much to be careful because of creepy people out there. I have a blog and IG, but never post photos of my home, rarely my children and I save the vacation pics until I'm back home. I don't share our last name or the city where we live, the schools my kids go to or even their mascots, but it's still a risk. Thanks for sharing the tips you learned the hard way.

  29. April 7, 2015 / 3:33 pm

    These are all good points, but I can't help but think the best thing to do would be to just make your account private. The fangirls would be bummed, but it might be worth it for your safety and especially your daughter's safety. Just one non-bloggers opinion. : )

  30. April 7, 2015 / 4:24 pm

    Hi Hailey! This was such a great + important read. I personally don't have a family of my own yet, but I still feel like I needed to see this. I must say, I found your blog through a shared link in the Savvy Business Owners FB group, and I fell in LOVE. You/your blog/your videography has completely re-sparked my love for video! As a video-journalist and videographer I've felt so uninspired lately. But after reading your posts and watching your videos I fell in love all over again and I'm completely determined to get my mojo back so to speak! So glad to have found your blog and can't wait to see more. ๐Ÿ™‚

    -Mo

  31. April 7, 2015 / 4:40 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I have a 7 month old son and I post pictures of him regularly. I have received a lot of followers lately that I do not know, and because of you, I have now blocked over 20 users that are similar to the ones you are talking about. Without this, I would have had no idea! I hope you are doing well, and are still confident in what you represent. I appreciate you! Thank you for what your stand for!

  32. April 7, 2015 / 5:58 pm

    Super creepy!! I'm sorry that happened :(. Thank you for writing about it and bringing awareness to the issue!!

  33. April 7, 2015 / 7:35 pm

    Hailey, I am so sorry that this happened to your family! Thanks for sharing and being so open I know that can be super hard!! Prayers for you and your family!! (:

  34. April 7, 2015 / 8:53 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing! I really appreciated it. I know it's been asked before, but I think it's worth asking again. Do you know of some easy way to find out if your pictures have been stolen? It'd be really great if something like the face mapping technology on Facebook existed where you could do a search with a face picture and then the results would show any and all sites where that face comes up. I would definitely use it. And having that ability to shine light on that dark problem would probably really help to put a stop to it.

    • April 7, 2015 / 10:17 pm

      Not that I know of… Luckily one of my followers recognized Lucy and sent it to me.

    • April 9, 2015 / 12:11 pm

      Bummer… But I'm so glad someone thought to let you know!

    • April 13, 2015 / 2:40 pm

      If you drag an image into Google Images' search bar, it will look for identical and similar photos. That's how I look for the original source for poorly pinned Pinterest images. I wonder if that would work with your kid's photos…?

  35. April 7, 2015 / 9:49 pm

    thank you so much for posting this! it really is such an important thing to talk about. i never even thought about not posting pictures about the exterior or details of the interior. this is really good advice lady!

  36. April 8, 2015 / 2:56 am

    A very brave, and real account of just how abusive people can be with your innocent and harmless content. It's definitely a reality on when is sharing bordering on over-sharing and putting yourself at risk. Good on you for being so frank about it. High Five!

  37. April 8, 2015 / 5:57 am

    (not sure where my last comment again- delete if it's a duplicate!) I really appreciate what you shared. I've heard of this potentially happening, but you're the first to share of it actually happening, and it makes it much more real. I finally did what I know I should have done a long time ago. I switched my IG to private, blocked a few users that seemed suspicious, and deleted a few pictures that you described might be the kind they like to use. That was really helpful, thank you again for sharing this.

  38. April 8, 2015 / 7:33 am

    Huge eye opener! Thank you so much for sharing this

  39. April 8, 2015 / 12:42 pm

    I hadn't even thought about something like this happening. I appreciate your detailed advice on which photos to avoid. Thanks!

  40. April 8, 2015 / 1:00 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story! I'm a new blogger and I also run a business based out of my home. I'm always so concerned about privacy because I have to use my address for my business so much, which means it's pretty much out there, everywhere! These were great tips to remind when to think of when posting photos of my son on Instagram and my blog. I'm so sorry you had a bad experience, but thankful you are sharing with us!

    • April 9, 2015 / 6:23 pm

      Can you get a PO Box? I've toyed with that idea b/c it would keep your home address more private.

  41. April 8, 2015 / 5:49 pm

    Thank You for posting! I have recently been thinking I need to change some things in my social media posting. This reinforces my desire. I was shocked to find I had 100+ pics with my location attached. I had never used this setting so it was a bit shocking. I'm also annoyed that family members frequently share my fb posts. It makes me crazy because I do not know their "friends". I've asked people to stop but it still continues. Any idea how to block ppl from sharing your fb posts? I rarely post because of it anymore. Any ideas would be appreciated! Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • April 9, 2015 / 8:52 pm

      We are very cautious and never put photos showing our kids' faces online – but family members take pictures with our kids and put them on FB and who knows where else even though we've asked them not to.

  42. April 8, 2015 / 9:11 pm

    It is so awful you had to go through this, I'm sorry! People also need to BE AWARE & BE CAUTIOUS of apps like 'Map My Run', 'STRAVA', and other workout tracking apps. If your profile is not set to private anyone can see the routes you walked/ran which most of the time start and end at our homes. It is so easy for strangers to click on your workout and have a map right to your home's location! Most people don't realize and it can be so dangerous. ((http://brightonandmichael.blogspot.com))

  43. April 9, 2015 / 12:25 am

    I so appreciated the article on Deseret News about safety while blogging and using social media. I try to be very careful about the things I post when it comes to where we live, house, vacations, etc., but find it's easy to slip up. Thank you for the reminder. ๐Ÿ™‚

  44. April 9, 2015 / 12:55 am

    What a scary thing. Thanks for sharing your experience and advice. You are a wonderful mother that radiates so much light and joy and love. I hope the dark actions of others have not caused you to think otherwise. It is clear that your family's well-being is your biggest priority. Thank you for sharing your goodness.

    P.S. I like your glasses. ๐Ÿ™‚

  45. April 9, 2015 / 1:03 am

    I am so heartbroken this happened to you and your sweet little family.May God bless you and watch over you and yours.

  46. April 9, 2015 / 4:22 am

    OH gosh, how awful and terrifying for this to happen to you and your beautiful family! I'm so so sorry there are such sick people in this world that can invade our privacy and take our precious loves and distort them into their own twisted desires.It's terrifying to think of this underground world of people online that lurk everywhere. We really have to be SAFE and protect ourselves!!

  47. April 9, 2015 / 3:11 pm

    One of the things that bothers me is, even if you are not in the white pages, people can still get your address. (http://www.intelius.com/)
    If you find yourself listed, you can request to opt out. I forget the other databases out there, but it's scary!)

  48. April 9, 2015 / 6:12 pm

    I checked my location settings, and my house was geotagged too. Thank you so much for telling us about this!

  49. April 9, 2015 / 6:16 pm

    Yuck, yuck, yuck. So sad that this is even a reality!

  50. April 9, 2015 / 6:21 pm

    Reading posts & experiences like yours has made me really get protective of my daughter. I've ended up deleting all photos of my daughter that shows her face & chosen not to post anymore publicly. The baby role play thing really sickened me, so I just decided better be over protective. It is hard though to make that transition when you're a blogger & used to posting so much about your life.

  51. April 9, 2015 / 6:39 pm

    Thank you for this. I am now going through my blog and removing photos as well as anything other than my home state. I would also suggest you remove your last name (which I noticed on the bottom of your post). I had read where identity thieves will copy your photo, along with your name to steal your identity. I am removing any photos other than side-ways ones of myself. My full name does not appear. God bless you!

  52. April 9, 2015 / 8:49 pm

    There are some really sick people in the world. Every blogger has to make some executive decisions. When I started blogging I decided that I would post occasional pictures of myself, but never pictures of the kids' faces (only boring ones showing the backs of their heads.) I use my real name, but not my kids' names. I'm glad that there are probably thousands of other people with my same first and last name. I say what region of the country we live in, but no more specific than that, not even the state. And the first mention I ever make of going on a trip is after we get back.

  53. April 10, 2015 / 2:44 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. The line between protecting my family's privacy and me writing a public blog has been a constant disscussion for my husband and I. It is scary to think how the information adn pictures and be misused so easily.

  54. April 10, 2015 / 1:13 pm

    I just made my Instagram account private this year after getting freaked out by certain followers. Thank you for sharing this post. As the founder of KidsLink, a free app for families that helps parents share photos, moments, milestones, and documents safely within a trusted circle, posts like this are affirmation that we are on the right path. Thanks again.

  55. April 10, 2015 / 1:21 pm

    Absolutely. I learned my lesson 2.5 years ago when my son was digitally kidnapped… it was long before #babyrp was actually a thing, and the takedown process was much different (i.e: non-existent). I'm glad we are writing these articles and helping people make smarter choices!

  56. April 15, 2015 / 3:26 pm

    Yikes! Thank you for putting yourself out there and keeping us safe. I'm so sorry that you had to deal with this!

  57. April 15, 2015 / 7:40 pm

    hey hey hey! we would LOOVE it if any of you lovely people would check out our blog! xoxoxox

  58. April 17, 2015 / 6:02 am

    Thank you so much for posting this! I have never heard of baby role playing! That's awful! I'm a photographer, too! & I've only done a few child photos, and one session of a child in a diaper and I never thought twice about it until now! Thanks so much for the info!!

    I did have a super non-important question that's absolutely non-related (sorry!)! Where is your jacket from? I absolutely love it! Haha & I'm loving your blog! ๐Ÿ™‚

  59. April 22, 2015 / 4:01 pm

    Wow this creeps me right out! Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention! I had no idea. I will be a lot more careful from now on!

  60. April 23, 2015 / 12:47 am

    Wow, this really creeps me out, but is also very informative. Thank you! I have a few of my daughter facing forward, but they're older pictures. Recent ones, I rarely post anymore. My social media sites rarely have my daughter Lucy on there anymore. Luckily, most of these other safety ones I already use. Still, I love this post! I think it's cool how we both have a daughter named Lucy. ๐Ÿ™‚

  61. June 26, 2015 / 6:42 am

    good read. It helps to bring awareness to the public and keeping a high level of privacy within my own FB and IG account. We as parents wouldn't want those sick predators to 'kill' our child's pictures unnecessarily. Thank you for sharing.

  62. July 30, 2015 / 4:45 am

    I don't mean to be rude here, but…. you need to mark your account as private if you don't want random people you don't know following you. Common Sense people.

    • May 17, 2016 / 6:12 pm

      Just read this post, thank you for the advice! If you were to do it over again would you have not used your personal names on your site?

  63. November 1, 2015 / 6:31 pm

    I just came across this post after another blogger shared it and you give some great tips! I'm not a mom yet but I try to be very aware of what I post online. I work with kids/youth and it's terrifying what kind of bad people are out there.

  64. November 3, 2015 / 6:39 pm

    I love this article!! Not many mommy bloggers ( that I follow ) talk about this issue! I'm so sorry that you learned about all of this the way that you did and that you've had so many weird/terrifying experiences but I'm so glad that you are able to shed some light on this for others. I have been hoping to start my own blog & vlog and have started attaching everything to my Instagram account… I'm now definitely going to create a new & different Instagram account specific to my blog / vlog where I only share pictures of my little man that fall under these "rules" or "guidelines" whatever you want to call them.

    THANKS again!

  65. May 7, 2016 / 2:59 pm

    The account should be private. Otherwise, the websites like picbear.com will display all of your photos.

  66. May 11, 2016 / 5:36 pm

    This is so nice to know about! I never thought of those things. I'm sorry you had to go threw those things but it just shows that the lord prepared you and all of us for the hard trials in life.

  67. May 31, 2016 / 8:23 pm

    This post is giving me two different opinions. One is: Absolutely great! You are so right and you could not have made better conclusions for yourself! The other is though: This is also sad. There's so many people truely enjoying your posts and so many people being inspired by them and I find it the saddest thing that mean and selfish people take advantage of it.
    For me, as a reader I want to thank you so much for everything you share and the positivity of it – especially at the price, as you've obiously experienced, pay for it! THANK YOU!

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