The shocking Instagram post that made me stop in my tracks
Updated: May 15
“You won’t want to see this, or know about it, but as a parent, you have to,” warns Aussie mum Sophea.Please note this article contains discussions of child exploitation.
Sophea Manzl - February 23, 2023
I recently saw an Instagram post that I truly believe every parent needs to know about it.
It was posted by someone with over a million followers, but he’s not social media influencer in the typical sense. Far from it. His name is Adam Whittington.
If that sounds familiar, it might be because he’s the guy that tried to help Aussie mum Sally Faulkner get her kids out of Lebanon in 2016. So he’s been working in high stakes child safety for a long time.
Recently he shared something that has been hard for me to stop thinking about it. Why? Because it’s so common, we all see it every day and don’t realise how unsafe our kids are.
“You are part of the problem”
These days, Whittington is the CEO of Project Rescue Children (PRC). He posts about online child safety incidents to his massive following – ones we don’t realise are significant because we’re so accustomed to seeing similar images – and we even post them ourselves.
Following him has opened my eyes up to the real world of child trafficking and exploitation. His mission and goal in life is to rescue all of the children that are being exploited around the world, and that hopefully one day he “won’t have to.”
I’ve been following Whittington’s account for a long time, and a lot of the content is absolutely confronting. But as Adam says, “if you are one who follows and ignores, you are part of the problem”.
Think of it this way: if it’s simply hard to read a story about a child being exploited, imagine how hard it would be for that child to live the experience.
The post about ‘mummy run accounts’
Earlier this month, Whittington posted about “Mummy Run accounts” on social media.
He was talking about how some influencers ‘use’ their kids in their content; content which they use to make money.
“Behind every photo you take is a metadata description, which is very easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection,” he says. This shows all the specifics of a picture, including time and location of where the photo was taken. There is no way to avoid this.”
He adds, “More often than not [the images] end up on the Dark Web. No, the influencers aren’t putting their kids directly onto the Dark Web, but once you put your child’s photo out to the public online world, anyone has access to it, including pedophiles.”
I hadn’t realised this – it’s not just about the risk of someone screenshotting your post.
Effectively, posting photos of your children on the internet publicly where anyone can see it, is putting them at serious risk. Not only for their photos to be stolen and used, but for their regular locations to become known to absolutely anyone.
Whittington is blunt about this issue – and the parents.
“The parents of these large “kidfluencer” accounts are very aware of the exploitation they are doing to their kids. Shockingly often blocking someone trying to educate or raise concerns about pedophile comments.”
“I unfollowed any of these sorts of accounts”
The post made me stop in my tracks and question my own behaviour.
Have I been following these accounts online? Contributing to their fame and income? Thus enabling this child exploitation?
Since reading then, I have gone through all the accounts I am following that may be sharing excess amounts of photos of their children publicly and unfollowed them all. I didn’t have many, but I really now do feel uncomfortable with any social media accounts that are sharing photos of their children online for anyone to see.
This is a whole new generation of children who are growing up with their whole life and identity being shared online without them even knowing or realising the huge implications. It’s not just about privacy – it is a safety risk.
What are the kids going to think about what their parents have done when they grow up? Do their parents really know who is looking at their photos?
I don’t want to know, but I have to
Since following Whittington, I’ve gone from not really knowing anything about the horrible world of pedophilia, to feeling really empowered to have these discussions just from his often brutal, but honest posts. Even the word ‘pedophile’ was, and still is, taboo. People don’t want to talk about it.
But when we are taking so many photos of our children these days and sharing them online, we need to be aware of who is actually out there.
If you are a parent and like to share photos of your children, that is completely fine. But please do it in a private account with a small number of followers that you know.