No Pics On Social Media! The Day I Understood Why

My husband doesn’t really like Facebook. Nor does he like any other social network. He thinks too much information get shared which makes it too easy for scumbags to take advantage of you. And I agree with him. What I struggled agreeing with him for a long time was his “no posting pictures policy”.

I admit, he got me to the point where I started asking other parents if it’s okay to take pictures of a team event with my children in, of my kids playing with them on a playground. They usually looked at me and didn’t understand why someone would ask at all. I always promised them not to share the pictures with their children in online. Which they thought was weird too, in most cases.

After all everyone does it, right? Everyone shares pictures on social networks. And why should you hide your life, your stunning pictures of your beautiful kids and your awesome new haircut or makeup? Our kids are totally awesome too and putting up a picture of them in the bath or on the beach or playing together was tempting. Especially as we are an expat family with friends and family overseas. So what would be easier than sharing those moments online, for everyone to see? Set the privacy settings on the most private setting and only allow the people you really want to see it to do so.

Easy? Maybe. But not with a husband, who knows way too much about cyber crime, bullying and how the yucky people work (oh those lawyers…). So after discussion after discussion after discussion I finally realized that he will never be happy about posting pictures online. He had very convincing arguments. Still, sometimes it irked me. Until that day…

We were on vacation. On vacation in a beautiful place, amongst heaps of people on vacation too. After spending an afternoon sightseeing we decided to give our kids a break and took them to a playground. While they were playing we were sitting close by on a bench watching them, until my husband suddenly jumps up, runs over and says stop to a guy, who was about to take a picture of his boy and our kids. My husband told him that he would prefer him not to take a picture of our kids and everything was fine. The man apologized and eventually we left. Not without a discussion between me and my husband.

I got where my husband was coming from, especially considering the theory about what might have happened to Maddie McCann. For those of you who are not familiar with it: They now believe that pedophile rings, child trafficker used to have people looking for potential victims in resorts, talking pictures of the kids and then upload them to a specific site from where potential customers could place orders. And then the kids got abducted, if possible. A guy with a camera taking pictures is not really weird in a holiday location…

In this case though, I felt my husband’s reaction was way over the top. The other guy was clearly a dad, probably on vacation, who wanted to take a picture of his son with his new found friends. What’s wrong with that? I would probably do the same… My husband, again, explained to me how many cases of child abduction have started like this and brought up the McCann case. He also mentioned that even if this guy was fine we would have no clue what would happen to the pictures. I was still not really convinced. And to be honest, what started as a normal discussion ended in a pretty heated argument.

It was the very next day that my perspective on that subject changed forever. My husband had a meeting and so I took Grandma and the kids to a busy beach, which was the closest to where we were staying. While my son was chasing crabs along the shore, my daughter had found herself some new friends and the group of girls was building sandcastles only a few meters from where I was sitting. I was watching the kids while Grandma was reading her book, chatting with my daughter every now and then.

For whatever reason this guy caught my attention. Maybe it was because he was fully dressed, walking along the beach. Maybe it was the way he was looking around. Maybe it was just a mother’s instinct. I didn’t stop watching him. He had a big camera with him and approached the kids and started talking to the girls. I still kept watching but all my senses were on full alert now. Why? I didn’t know then. It was when he touched my daughter’s shoulders that my heart really started racing. And then he took his camera and aimed it at her.

Now, on our travels we often encountered Asian people who wanted to take pictures of our kids. And when you said no, they were always very polite, apologized and didn’t take the picture. Now, don’t get me wrong, this story has nothing to do with the fact that this man was Asian. It could have been any other person too…

When I saw that he was aiming his camera I told him loud enough for him to hear but not too loud to make a scene, to please not take a picture. He then looked at me, smiled and aimed his camera again. I thought that he might have not understood me and said loud and clear “No!” while shaking my head. I guess that’s something you understand no matter what language you speak. He smiled again and aimed his camera again. By now I was up and on my way over, ready to smash the camera in his face.

I looked at him and shouted “No!” for everyone else around us to be heard. Finally he stopped, smiled and walked back from where he came from. I looked at two ladies who were sitting right next to the girls. They looked at me and said: “Well, that was really weird!”

I was glad they did, as I wasn’t sure if I was just being overly protective. I watched him walk off for a moment and then went back to where I was sitting. When my son came over I quickly explained everything to him and asked him to stay alert too.

Only a short moment later the man came back. This time with a buddy of his, who had a small digital camera with him. They walked pass the girls, not without a short chat with them, and again, touching my daughter on her shoulder. When they were a couple of meters away from the group of girls. The Asian guy positioned himself in a manner which allowed his buddy to take a picture of the girls without it being obvious. Now, I take a lot of pictures myself and I have an idea of how you angle cameras to take certain shots.

In that moment I got up and positioned myself between my girl and them. To make sure they only get a picture of me and not of her. I felt helpless, as my husband was still not back from the meeting. My phone was in my beach bag and Grandma was not paying attention. I looked at the two ladies who were sitting close by. They were watching as well. When one of them said to me, how weird the entire situation seems to her and that she was a professional photographer and was sure they were not taking pics of themselves, I knew I had to act.

I simply said: “I wish I could get the police here!”

In that moment I saw two officers patrolling the road right next to the beach. Looking back it was probably not the smartest thing to do, as I also didn’t know the two women. But in that moment, I just wanted the cops down there. So I asked the ladies to shield the girls, ran to Grandma, made her get up and go over to my daughter and ran over to the police officers.

When I was there, explaining them everything I saw how the two guys watched me and started heading off. Slowly but surely. I pointed them out to the officers who left right away to follow them.

I was shaking. And I was also doubting myself. What if my reaction was over the top? What if I was totally wrong? And while I was doubting me, that woman came running up to me and asked me if my chat to the police was about those two Asian guys. When I said yes, she told me that she had watched them walking along the beach, taking pictures of little girls, big girls and babies in prams…

There was no picture of my girl on the SIM card of both cameras. But there apparently were plenty of pictures of girls and babies. And girls behinds, lying in the sand…

That was the day I changed my idea about people taking pictures of children that are not theirs, even if their children are in the picture too. It was the day I changed my idea about posting pictures of my children online. It was the day I apologized to my husband for doubting him in this regard.

Unfortunately there are creeps out there. In many cases we can’t do anything and we probably don’t even know anything. I guess it’s better this way. There are little things we can do though, to make the lives of our kids safer. And if it means to say no to someone who wants to take a picture of your child, so be it. I go the old fashioned way and send prints of my pictures to my parents and the kids godparents. And still I have to trust that nothing goes wrong.

The feeling I had that day on the beach is something I never want to experience again. Listen to your gut. Listen to your instinct. Don’t just be polite. And teach your children to be alert to. To always watch out and not to fall for anything.

85 thoughts on “No Pics On Social Media! The Day I Understood Why

  1. Wow. What an important post! I’m so glad you followed through on your instincts! This should be posted where every parent can see it. It should be posted where every teenager can see it. I have long agreed with your husband (though I don’t know him)…..way too much is shared on social media. I am very careful about that myself. This post will make me even more careful. I’m very glad you wrote this up!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Same thing happened to me in Bangkok, in a very public park. The guards said they would took the guy to the police station, but we saw him giving them a couple of notes and running away.
    No one supported me when I shouted at him, it is so common in Asia that nobody ever says anything, as crazy as it seems. We always say no to pic, but I have to remind it constantly to the kids’ teachers, nanny and the kids always refuse to be on the pic. But it is so part of the culture over there :/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on behindthewhitefence and commented:
    SO Scary!
    I do not post many pics of my daughter on any website even though my ‘privacy’ settings are maxed out.
    Family asks before they post anything of my daughter since they think I’m neurotic
    However, I was at a local play center and I saw one of my friends daughter. She doesn’t know me all that well and her mom and I talk only on occasion. But I recognized her in a second and I realized it wasn’t because I saw her on a regular basis in person, I recognized her from all the pictures her mom posts on facebook!
    I had all this information about her and I am not a close family friend. I knew her name, I knew what she liked, I knew what she didn’t like.
    I was instantly mortified about how easy this information is to get on the internet.
    After reading this story I will definitely be on a bit more high alert for those creepy guys with the cameras on the beach (and other areas)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It is always better to err on the side of safety. Never doubt that gut instinct. And remember that with today’s ability to automatically upload to “the cloud” someone can take a picture, delete it from their camera and still have it saved on their cloud drive. So even if it is not on their memory card, they may still have that picture.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow, that is VERY scary. Your reaction was most certainly not over the top. I probably would have gotten arrested on assault charges. I’m very sorry you had to go through that; thank you for sharing the experience so others can be on alert for things like this in places they least expect it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad that you were on the alert and protected them. Online pedophilia is real and as usual there is debate over whether it is “really” harmful because you “can’t be raped” on a computer which is actually not true. There is more than one way to rape a body and mind.

    The internet has always had a dark side….part of the darkness is that it makes life easier for predators of all kinds who organize and enable each other. Thanks for posting this…I’m going to share it.

    Liked by 1 person

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  15. Reblogged this on Belle Papillon 24/7 and commented:
    Warning to all parents!!!
    I am very careful when I post photos of my daughters on any of my social media accounts even though my ‘privacy’ settings are “strict”. I usually share only with family and close friends but you never know. My kids think I’m paranoid but I don’t care.
    After reading this story I feel that parents should be more proactive and I feel compelled to share this to make more people aware that this is actually happening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for sharing. One day our kids can decide what they want to share. It’s when they are officially grown ups. Until then I will be responsible for their safety and will do what I can to keep them from posting pics on social media. Even if someone calls me paranoid… I take it. I’m rather paranoid than sorry…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I totally agree with you. Even some of my friends think I’m a little on the weird side for being that way but my motto is better safe than sorry. I watched those parents grieve for the loss of their kids (Amber, the Ramsay girl, E. Smart, etc.) and I know how much they regret not being a little more paranoid but it’s too late. My kids are teenagers now but I still have that fear in me coz they are girls and this is a crazy world… as much as I want to have a little more faith in humanity, these things do happen.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. To be entirely honest, I started reading the post thinking your husband was over reacting…. wow, I was wrong. You really really REALLY don’t know what will happen with that picture. To take it one further, it could end up photoshopped onto someone else and used in advertising, as bait, child pornography, God only knows.

    Great post, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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  18. Wow, what an important post and what a frightening experience for you. Can totally understand how creeped out you were. There are lots of crazies out there. Yes, good thing you trusted your instincts and acted on them, good for you.

    Liked by 1 person

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