The goal of every parent is, ultimately, to keep their babies safe and make sure they reach adulthood as happy, healthy, well adjusted young people. But ask any parent, there’s about a million ways that process can go wrong. Amanda Morgan, the proud mother of a baby girl, can attest to that after finding pictures of her baby, Callia, on a child pornography website.
According to National Human Trafficking Hotline statistics, one out of every seven children identified as “runaways” were likely victims of sex trafficking. 
Studies show that somewhere between 50 and 90 percent of the victims of child sex trafficking are involved in the child welfare system. 
Homelessness is also a major factor. A New York City study found that one in four homeless LGBTQ minors are child sex explotation victims. 
Exploitation can happen to anyone
There’s a pattern here – that youths who might be described as ‘at risk’ are the most likely to wind up being taken advantage of by adults, but Morgan’s cautionary tale to other parents points to this being something that all parents must watch out for.
Morgan was excited that her baby, Callia, was growing up and reaching important baby milestones, like sitting up for the first time, crawling, and so on. She did what I’m sure most have done: shared a few pics on her personal social media so that friends and family can keep up with little Callia’s many big achievements.
Three photographs, including one depicting Callia in a white dress with a cute white bow on her head, was picked up by Facebook and Instagram pages that feature cute babies. Initially, Morgan saw no issue with this. But things turned dark fast after these three photos appeared on a website for pedophiles.
Not only did they steal these images and use them without permission on a disgusting website, the images were doctored to make it look like Callia was wearing heavy makeup.
Amanda was initially alerted by activists who were petitioning for the site to be shut down that her baby’s photos were being used.
Discovering the child pornography site
“I cried uncontrollably for 45 minutes when I received that message,” she recalled of that day. “My partner couldn’t calm me down, I was sobbing and shaking.”
“I thought it was all my fault because I had this Instagram page.”
“There are three pictures of my child on that website. I haven’t dolled her up like that, and I wouldn’t want to put my baby in makeup,” she continued.
In order to see which images of her baby were used, Amanda was forced to create an account on the site. She says she saw that there were thousands of child abuse images on the site and that pedophiles with horrible usernames had written awful comments under each photo.
“The usernames go from A-Z, and each letter has thousands of users with pedophile usernames like ‘baby abuser.’ I’ve never seen anything like it. I didn’t want to look too deep because I didn’t want to scare myself,” Morgan explained.
“As sickening as the comments were on Callia’s, they were mild. The other stuff that’s on there is even worse. I nearly threw up, I was literally retching like I was going to be sick. I’ve not been sleeping properly since I found out.”
This is a truly horrible and traumatizing thing for a parent to have to go through, but Morgan has taken this experience and is using it to help other parents not go through what she did. She advises that parents be extremely careful about their social media privacy settings and, when in doubt, just keep these images to yourself.
“If you want to take those pictures, just keep them to yourself. Don’t put them anywhere for these creeps to get hold of,” she says.
This is definitely good advice, whether or not you have children. If you use Facebook, ensure that your posts can only be seen by people who are on your friends list – and don’t add random people you don’t know.
On Instagram, you can set your profile to be private, so that only people who follow you can see what you post. If your profile isn’t private, be cautious about the use of hashtags. Adding hashtags to your images allows anyone on the platform to see them if they view that hashtag.
Keep your babies, and yourselves, safe. It’s an ugly world out there.