I Thought I Was Protecting my Kids on the Internet, Then This Happened

For all intents and purposes I consider myself  a “mommy blogger” because I’m a mom with a blog and I write about parenting challenges.  But unlike some of the traditional curated mommy blogger accounts on social media, I mainly share humor/satire quotes and memes and rarely share pictures or stories about my kids.

They aren’t old enough to consent to me posting about them on a public forum so I have made a personal decision to limit what I post about them.

Even my blog is primarily geared toward satire and I haven’t revealed much in the way of personal information or stories about my children. I feel like that can make it difficult to connect to my audience, but a recent chain of events reminded me why this personal choice might be necessary.

Like most mothers,  I absolutely adore my kids and want to share them with you and the world! I want to show you the hilarious and adorable things they do, talk about the challenges of being a parent and give you personal stories to relate to.

After all, reading personal blogs and following parenting accounts has helped me feel less alone in an isolating period of my life as a stay-at-home mom, and I want my followers to connect with me on that same level.

But as my social media audience grows, I find myself becoming hyper aware of the tens of thousands of random eyes on my page and I’m reminded that having a public profile leaves my page (and my life) open to anyone and everyone.

Everyone including total creepos who follow mom accounts in the hopes of seeing pictures of young children. There’s no nicer way to say it,  and it’s 100000% a thing. I know because it happened in our online parenting community.

My mom instincts told me early on that this follower was potentially sketchy based on the strange comments he left on my pics, the way he stalked my Instagram stories religiously and left weird but harmless DM’s.

In addition, he didn’t fit the age/lifestyle or status quo of my typical followers and a quick look at his profile gave a glimpse into some odd topics and posts.  But he had mentioned a struggle with mental illness in a prior comment so I didn’t want to judge.

I gave him the benefit of the doubt but I also discussed his account with another mommy blogger who had similar interactions with him on Instagram, and we agreed that he had an odd vibe and we couldn’t understand why he followed mommy pages, but overall he seemed harmless.

That was until he left an inappropriate comment about another blogger’s child that sent us all reeling.

We immediately sent out a PSA amongst our group of parenting accounts and he was blocked and reported by many bloggers. We also made a vow to keep an eye out for any other suspicious followers and to keep each other informed.

Even though I wasn’t the one on the receiving end of the inappropriate message, I felt sick and I felt violated. I began to question everything I was doing on the internet and its purpose.

I naively thought that I was protecting my children by keeping their pics off my main page and only posting pictures and videos of them in my Instagram stories, where they receive less views and the stories disappear after 24 hours. But I was wrong, so wrong.

This man was watching my stories regularly, and the haunting thought that he could have photos of my kids (and my friend’s kids) saved to his phone makes me sick to my stomach.

As a parent it is my job to protect my children and look out for their best interest, and I feel like I failed. I know that there are potential predators everywhere- at playgrounds, at schools, in families and in churches, and I know it’s unavoidable to shield them from everyone because predators don’t exactly walk around with a nametag on that says HELLO MY NAME IS… TOTAL CREEPO.

And in the age of social media and the internet, they can be even harder to spot and they have greater access to their subjects of interest.

Even though my posts were harmless family pictures and small glimpses into my life, I still feel a sense of mom guilt and I am questioning how much I should share online.

How do I let my followers know that I’m a human parent just like them, without sharing my kids?

I’m aware that there are hundreds of thousands of children posted all over the internet and that the creeps will unfortunately find other accounts to lurk.

I know that I can’t protect my children from everything or live my life in fear, but as much as I want to share my life with my legitimate like-minded followers, I also have to be cognizant of the fact that there could be many more of these potential predators quietly following along, under fake accounts or internet guises.

What people decide to share on the internet is a personal choice, and while I will continue to share my no-holds barred humor, jokes, blog posts and other media, in light of this recent incident I feel like it’s my duty to make a greater effort to protect my children on my public social media account.

Am I overreacting? Or would you do the same?

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