Photoshopping stolen baby photos is Instagram’s worrying new trend

Posted in Entertainment and Technology.

Parents are being warned about a disturbing new Instagram trend, as some strange sorts are taking images of other peoples’ children and dramatically photoshopping their features to “improve” them.

View this post on Instagram

Bella bella????? #bella #vacay #italy #vacation

A post shared by ???????? (@lilcocooo) on

Top: original  
Bottom: photoshopped

They’re doing what?

Not only are these Photoshop enthusiasts altering babies’ and children’s eye-colour and other features, digitally, they’re apparently inviting their followers to vote on whether they prefer the “before” or “after” shot. Ugh.

Tanya Chen of Buzzfeed broke the news, explaining that Instagram user and mum Caroline Enterfeldt – aka @lilcocooo – had fallen prey to this ultra-weird phenomenon.

Buzzfeed reports that Caroline “noticed several photoshopped images of her daughter cropping up over and over on different accounts.” While initially Caroline wasn’t too worried, it soon became clear that this image stealing and editing was a broader problem. 

Sinister undercurrent

There seems to be a growing sub-culture devoted to reimagining already-perfect kids. It’s hard to know why people would take photos of strangers’ children, alter them and repost them for likes, but looking at the accounts that are guilty of this, they seem to be chock-full of appropriated images. 

It’s probable that InstaFame is the main goal here, but the implication that kids need to be edited, or have features particular to them or their ethnicity altered, makes this social media popularity play particularly sinister.

Top: The original
Bottom: The reposted, edited version

View this post on Instagram

Waiting for summer to kick in like…

A post shared by Maya (12.30.15) (@ohmy_maya_) on

Top: The original
Bottom: The reposted edited version

This Instagram user defended their edited shots (above)

The copycat trend

The theft of images of children from Instagram is sadly nothing new. Every celebrity baby you can think of has scores, if not hundreds, of tribute accounts where users repost images as their own. Luna Legend, the Kardashian kids, Princess Charlotte and Prince George are just a few of the high-profile kids who’ve sparked copycat accounts.

While you might expect famous kids to have their images stalked and reposted online (ugh), the idea of regular adorable kids having their photos aggregated, altered and judged by complete strangers is an unsettling one.

It gets worse

This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to weird stuff that can befall your child’s pics if you put them online. Back in 2015, a US mum exposed a role-play subculture, revealing social media users were stealing innocently posted kids’ images from family accounts, reposting them and creating story lines around them. They’d then invite other users to add to the story. 

“Some of the captions were more innocent,” she explained, noting they were still alarming.

“‘Liam and I are riding bikes!’ but they quickly grew darker- ‘Someone kidnapped Liam, they have him tied up in their car.’ Other role-play accounts would jump in with comments like ‘I found the car, I’m following them.'”

No turning back

The horrified mum quickly realised there was nothing she could do to recover her son’s photos. They’d already been shared over and over again.

“I have to live with the fact that someone likely has hundreds of photos of MY son saved on their computer or phone, that they can use however they please. It’s a horrible, helpless feeling.”

It’s yet another reason to consider whether the ease and convenience of sharing your children’s images on social media is really worth it, after all.

How would you feel if someone stole your baby’s image, altered it and reposted it, inviting their followers to judge the pic?


Get more babyology straight to your inbox