Seemingly harmless hashtags attracting predators to family photos

A lot of people share fun photos of their family on social media, but digital experts say how people share could be attracting predators and putting loved ones at risk. Using certain seemingly harmless hashtags could have dangerous results.

“Oversharing makes kids vulnerable in several ways,” said Leah Plunkett, a Havard University associate and author of the book “Sharenthood.” Plunkett said certain hashtags may draw the wrong eyes.

“Any hashtag that might lead sketchy people, or even potential predators on the internet, to know that there's children's information attached, can unfortunately be a way of just marking your children for unwanted attention,”  Plunkett said.

The Child Rescue Coalition compiled a list of dozens of "predator-attracting" hashtags to avoid.

They include:
#bathtime  
#splishsplash
#kidsswimwear
#toddlerbikini
#toilettraining
#pottytraining
#nakedbaby
#nakedkidsarehappykids
#diaperfree
#naptime

“That is an invitation to potential perpetrators who might take those images or that information, photoshop or otherwise alter them, make them into something like heaven forbid -- like pornography,” Plunkett said.

Easton mom Katie Johnson loves to post photos of her two children to share with family out of state, but said there are certain things she won't share.

“As parents, part of being on social media is learning to use it wisely, and so for me I don't post anything of my kids public. Everything is set to friends only. My Instagram account is private,” Johnson said.

“Hashtags don't make your stuff public -- they simply make it searchable,” Johnson said. “I use them, but I make sure I have the safeguards on my account so that it's not just free for the taking.”

Plunkett said that’s the first step to protecting your images: Set your social media settings to private.

Since even privacy settings can't protect you completely, Plunkett said to think about what you would like to see printed in the newspaper or on a holiday card. If it doesn't pass that test, don't post it.

Plunkett said it’s OK to share photos with people you trust, just think about keeping it lower tech. Send grandparents a text instead of posting for all to see.

She also recommends asking your children for permission once they’re old enough to understand.

It’s something Johnson does.

“I do want to set that precedent of, you have some control over your social media presence," Johnson said.

"If I can start that conversation now, maybe by the time they're teenagers and have their own it will be a healthier interaction for them."