- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Doting parents who post photos of their children on Instagram may want to double check their privacy settings, thanks to a new trend in social media role-playing. 

A simple search for #BabyRP on the photo-sharing app shows countless photos of children harvested from other people’s accounts for role-playing. 

Players will re-post the stolen photos to their own accounts with a new name and an imaginary storyline, inviting other users to pretend to be father, mother or child, the BBC reported

“BabyRP is just like playing a role in a play,” an anonymous user told the BBC. “Someone’s a baby, another a mommy, you just pretend. They may say things like ‘I wove you momma.’ It’s kind of like baby dolls.” 

After receiving an unusual amount of likes on several photos of her son, Instagram user and mother Dana Pecina-Phillips told the BBC she found dozens of photos of her son that she had taken being used for role-playing on another profile. 

“At that point, I kind of panicked,” Ms. Pecina-Phillips said, BBC reported. “I immediately commented on the photos and told her that the photos were not hers to use and that she needed to take them down.”

Ms. Pecina-Phillips said the user who had stolen her photos deleted the role-playing comments but did not take down the photos and kept posting more.

The mother reported the account to Instagram “over a hundred times to no avail.”

In a statement to the BBC, an Instagram spokesman said, “This type of content violates our terms. Once a parent or guardian reports it to us, we work quickly to remove it.” 

But the users who take part in the role-playing say that what they are doing isn’t wrong and say it’s a way for them to escape from their daily lives. 

“It’s not wrong,” another anonymous #BabyPR player told the BBC. “If the account’s public, so are the pictures they post.” 

Parents can protect their photos by keeping their accounts private, only sharing photos with users who have permission to view their account. 

Parents who want to share photos of their children more widely but still want to keep them from being used by role-players, should use watermarks to protect the photos from being stolen and turn off location tagging.

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