Thursday, November 06, 2008

A hopeful morning, followed by a horrifying discovery at lunchtime

Yesterday I started out the day feeling like my faith in humankind had been renewed a little. At lunchtime, I was horrified to discover that people--at least on the internet--can still be still pretty awful and disgusting.

If you read this blog, you know that I use the flickr web site to share my photos. And I know many of you do, too. Just recently I added the "flickr stats" tool that they offer--you have to sign up for it but it doesn't cost extra--and yesterday I checked out my photo stats, out of curiosity.

The stats feature tells you which of your photos are most popular, and how many views each has recieved. When I opened this feature, I was suprised to see that my number-one photo had gotten more than 2,000 hits. It was a picture of my three-year-old son, lying on our new wood floor last summer in his underpants. Showing off our home improvement project.

Upon further examination, I found that all of my top photos--dozens of them--are photos of Arlo in his undies or otherwise partially clothed, and the amount of traffic is sickening. I hope I don't have to actually spell out why, because I just can't bear to actually type it. Even writing this post feels dangerous to me now, because I'm afraid that some cyber-sicko is going to stumble upon this post and it will clue him in to the fact that I apparently have a very sexy four-year-old son. (I'm sorry, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little when I typed that.)

Before yesterday, I had already gone to the trouble of restricting access to certain shots of the kiddos--naked babies in the bath tub--but, being the wide-eyed optimist that I am, it didn't occur to me that I should lock down the pictures of my little boy in his Elmo undies, playing with the hose on our driveway. I am now working to sort through all of my flickr photos to lock down any photos that might be alluring to the pervs out there--and let me tell you, it is a grim and sickening task. I would just lock down my whole flickr account--and still might--but I have reasons for wanting to keep some photos public, so I'm trying to be selective.

All I'm saying is, please be careful when you share photos of your kids. Children like to be naked, and they like to play in their "natural" state. It's okay for you to think it's cute (as I do), and for you to take pictures (yep), and even for you to share those pictures with your friends and family (guilty!). But learn from my naivete, and please take care to restrict access to those photos if/when you do upload them.

I don't think there is probably anything I can do about the pedophiles who have probably already downloaded photos of Arlo. I can only take comfort in the fact that he has not actually been harmed by this incident, and that he will never have to know about it. His innocence hasn't been ruined, but in a way, mine has. I can't look at my own child the same way now, knowing that someone (thousands of someones) have looked at him with impure intentions.

To me, that's a crime.

P.S. If you have any ideas for how I might handle this, or somehow take action, please feel free to comment. I plan to contact flickr, but I doubt if they can do anything.


mark said...

Good rule of thumb: Everyone on the Internet is a pedophile.

Sara B. said...

any idea about Shutterfly? do they have similar features? I can't say that I've taken undies shots of the kids in a very long time, but there may be old ones from when they were tots...

writermom said...

I'm just so sorry about this, honey. As much as the world is a hopeful and beautiful place, it can also be sick and depraved. Hugs, k

Becky G. said...

It's a creepy world we live in indeed!! I don't know much about those sites as I haven't used them much since I'm not on Myspace any longer but I'm sorry you're dealing with this! =( Hopefully someone knows of a trusted site where it won't happen again!


not supergirl said...

So sorry. I think you're doing exactly what you can do. Some people are amazingly damaged. I know I get nervous about the photos of my kids, too. I've considered calling all the photos private, but share with lots of family members without logins to flickr. While it's repulsive to imagine someone looking at the photos with anything but innocent affection, I liken it to the fact that when we're out, anyone can see the girls, and I can't control what people are thinking then, either.
Now, though, I'm off to look at my flickr stats for the first time.

thediaperdiaries said...

I am a freak about internet issues and so don't post pics of my kids on the web. I do on Facebook, but sometimes that even makes me nervous even though they are only viewable by friends. I just think UNFORTUNATELY we have to air on the side of extreme caution. This is a sick twisted world we inhabit. So sorry this happened to you.

mark said...

It might also be worth mentioning here that the flickr "guest pass" is something you could look into. Lock down everything you want private, then send a guest pass link to those folks you approve. Like a white list. They can bookmark and have access to all your photos. Little more work, but what's your peace of mind worth?

Anonymous said...

Just this week, Iowa's AG addressed Craig's list abuse of the site for distributing porn. (Multi-state effort) I bet someone in the AG's cyber crimes area would have info and guidelines/ connections to help. They might even do a public awareness press release to spread the word about what you learned. At least you could post what you learn. Contact the Iowa Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, 515-281-5926.