Are predators tracking your kids on Instagram? - FOX 13 News

Are predators tracking your kids on Instagram?

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A picture says a thousand words in the social media realm these days. 

Instagram is an app on your smart phone.  Photographers think it's an easy way to share their photos.  However, some people are targeting children and may be trying to share much more than pictures.

Forget the 140 characters of Twitter or your Facebook status.  This app is all pictures.

"You post a picture and your friends will see it," explained Corey Singletary.

The app features scenic shots, photos of friends and lots of pictures of food.

"Some of it's not appropriate. Some of it is. That's just social media," Singletary said.

A mother in Pinellas County contacted Fox 13 to warn others after she discovered her young daughter's Instagram account had quite the following.

She didn't want to be identified because of privacy concerns.

"I found out that my daughter had made her Instagram account public – that she had over four hundred followers – many of whom were outside of her age range and very inappropriate for her to be making contact with, strangers who she didn't know," she said.

All had access to her pictures. Several were making comments like "you're so pretty" and engaging in conversation.

She immediately deleted the contacts and locked down the account.

"There are people with fake profiles so you don't know who you are connecting with or who you are friends with or who you are liking," said Dr. Laura Umfer.

Umfer said the predatory mind tries to make contact on all digital platforms.

"If they see something on Instagram, then they are going to go track that person on Facebook," she said. "Are they tweeting things? And they are going to size this person's personality and say is this an easy target for me or not."

This story has a happy ending thanks to a mom who makes a habit of checking in on her daughter's digital life.

"I would have never known if I hadn't checked the phone, and it led to conversations with several other parents whose children had accounts who ended up having to do the same thing," she said.

It can feel like a lot for parents to keep up with hundreds of interactive apps on smart phones.  A failsafe is to require a password to download anything to a phone or iPad.  These apps can be perfectly safe with adult supervision, just like a playground.

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