Keeping our children safe online -The danger of “Role-playing” on Instagram

This past year, I have been an avid Instagram user. I love how I  can instantly upload my photos, and turn my normal photo, with the use of some filters, into an enhanced, brightened photo. I have enjoyed using this app from my phone, as a way to share my life through photos. Instagram has also been a great tool for networking, connecting, staying in touch with friends, and even making new ones. In addition, I have used my Instagram as a platform to make an impact,  and connect people to style their lives within.

As an avid Instagram user, I allowed my daughter who is almost twelve to have an Instagram account. Many of her peers are on Instagram, a couple of cousins, and her parents, so we decided it would be o.k for her as well. However, I  made sure that her privacy settings are on and I follow her. While observing her activity on Instagram, it all seemed very innocent.  She and her friends post pictures, like one another’s photos and make the odd comment to one another.

In due time, my husband and I noticed that our daughter was becoming a bit more consumed with her Instagram account. Anytime she had free time, her face was buried in her iPod.  We looked through her iPod regularly and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.

On one particular occasion, however,  I noticed that the account name she was using wasn’t her real name. When I asked her who this person was, she said she was pretending to be the sister of a band she loves, One Direction, and it was just something called “Role-play”. She explained that it was like “playing house”  online.

In that moment, my parenting alarms went off.  I looked through her iPod and noticed that her account had a fair amount of followers, whom  I wasn’t familiar with. Most of the names that her followers were using were that of famous people and singers.

Evidently,  “role-playing” is an online activity where tweens and teens are assuming roles of famous people they admire and using images of them taken off the internet, in turn, creating an online fictional fantasy world. My daughter was very straightforward with what she was doing, and the role she was assuming, so, I reluctantly let her continue. After all, it all seemed very innocent.

Although we let her continue, my parenting alarms kept telling me that something wasn’t right about letting our daughter assume a role of somebody that she wasn’t. Quickly, my warning alarms wouldn’t allow it any longer. It didn’t make any sense to me that my daughter or any of these children for that matter would want to interact in this fictional online life.  I told my daughter that she was no longer to engage in Role-play. I could see how attached she was becoming to this fictional life and although it was very innocent, I, on the other hand, could see that this fictional life could easily affect her “real’ life.

We explained to our daughter, how dangerous the online world can be. We told her how we worried that her real emotions could get mixed up with this fake role that she was assuming, and the online friendships that she was forming. We also explained to her who online predators are, and as scary as it sounds,  these people who she’s innocently chatting with could be predators, who use these images of popular singers and actors to interact online in inappropriate discussions.

My husband and I let her know, how much we love her and care about her well-being, and that we didn’t think it was safe to continue.

I began to research the hashtag #roleplay and #rp on Instagram and came across thousands and thousands of people using the hashtag and engaging in these fictional, interactive online Instagram stories. Unfortunately, not everyone is innocently assuming the role of Harry Potter or a One Direction singer. I came across many images and under these images the hashtag,  #dirtyrp, where people are interacting with ‘dirty” fictional stories and pornographic discussions with one another. It made me sick to my stomach, especially since my daughter was engaging in this “Role-play” and most likely came across these photos and hashtags.

I blamed myself for allowing her to continue with role-playing. I felt like a terrible parent.

However, I am glad that I listened to my parenting warning bells, and did my research.

I’m so disturbed by how many users out there use Instagram images as a basis for pornographic conversations. And, what scares me the most about role-playing on Instagram is that the images being used that I came across in the #roleplay hashtags weren’t  necessarily suggestive, however under some of these nonsuggestive images were pornographic discussions.

So, what can we as parents do from here?

Children need to be thirteen years of age to sign up for an Instagram account. I am no longer allowing my daughter to have an Instagram account. Many children have Instagram accounts that are under the age of thirteen. Creating an Instagram account only takes a few steps which include a valid email address and a few questions. Your children can easily create a fake Instagram account. If your tween/teen is using Instagram make sure that your child’s online friends are people they know and trust.

Educate your child on internet safety, internet dangers and what is appropriate to share online.

Most importantly,  make sure that your child’s account is private.

If your child is engaging in role-play on Instagram and you are aware of this, making sure that they don’t share anything about their private life, will aid in keeping them safe from predators.

At the end of the day, we will not be able to stop our children from being online. The only thing we can do is make sure that we are constantly monitoring their interactions on social platforms. If I didn’t monitor my daughter’s online interactions than I would have never come across the dangers I found about “role-playing” on Instagram.

The online world can seem like a very safe place for children and teenagers, especially since they are behind a screen in the comfort of their own home. I share this post with you today, in hopes to bring more awareness to parents about some of the potential dangers that are associated with using Instagram.

Please share this post with anybody that you know that has tweens and teenagers who engage online.

 

Thank you

 

 

 

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26 thoughts on “Keeping our children safe online -The danger of “Role-playing” on Instagram

  1. Very glad i found this im reserching material to use as a “wake the hell up” on my mother i am 19 i have been through the roleplay stuff and got out of it
    I am now witnessing my 7 year old sister unsupervised On the computer morning and night and the entire weekend i have tried explaining to my mother that she is going to regret letting her have ao much freedom because its almost impossible to avoid rp on the computer
    Sure enough my 7 year old sister is free ranged roleplaying on animal jam (supposed to be a kids site)
    And more recently ive discovered
    On youtube
    There is no way for me to keep an eye on her as she wont allow anyone to view her screen, the adults cater to this wish of hers
    Hopefully this article will help because im really worried about her.

  2. Not all roleplays and roleplay accounts are the same. The Dance Moms roleplay groups are fairly innocent where users take on the cast member’s identity (sometimes varying it a little bit) and interact with others who do the same for another cast member. None of their personal identity is being revealed. Roleplay accounts are ok if they’re not dirty and their avatar is someone who is already well-known, even if their name is different in RP. My experiences in Instagram roleplay have been nothing but positive and as long as you find a nice roleplay group, roleplaying can be a great way to have fun. As long as it’s kept in moderation!

  3. I have a thirteen year old daughter that has been caught role playing on multiple occasions. I have tried to stop her from doing it and she doesn’t seem to believe that it can be bad or that there are bad people out there. She thinks that they are all stories. When I showed her that the account name she used was associated with many pornographic sites she appeared frightened, but every chance she is given she creates a role play. Not only is this dangerous to her in regards to sexual predators, it is dangerous in her being a considered a predator herself given the age. I know in her heart she would never do anything to hurt people, but she follows and is not a leader so would easily get caught up in it.
    I don’t want to destroy a talent that she apparently has, and that would be her imagination. I have taken all of her electronics away and now have her on an assignment. She was given a notebook and a pen. I am having her “role play” a story on paper. Write a book per say. Who knows, maybe she will be good enough and create a story that can be sold. I am hoping for positive results on this type of solution. I do know she is a straight A English person. 🙂

    1. Hi
      have you ever heard of Fan fiction ? That’s a super safe place that you could try to get your daughter into .It’s an online wrong site which may give your daughter some ideas and she could publish what she writes on there too. It’s a massive confidence boost to see people reading what I have written and enjoying it .It’s much safer as you can’t post pictures to people you can just comment on a story and read stores that’s all.However watch the ratings as some are just wrong but you can stay away from those by liking at the ratings they range firm K to M. It’s just an idea you may think it’s no good but it might be good for her to see what others write

      1. The “fan fiction” sites are not innocent. Have not looked at AO3? I caught my child on there, and when I looked I got sick. These were fans stories written about all sorts of tv, movie, book, comics, etc. But everything was sexual.

        I agree with the author, kids may know how to use technology faster and better then there parents, but they are not mature enough to understand the mental and physical dangers.

        They find acceptance in these online groups, while my child was dealing with a mean group of kids and a bully, they found acceptance online, and now has been exposed to things they should never have.

        So learn from me, who talked with his kids about the danger and they still got sucked in. Lock down EVERY computer and phone.

  4. So. I’m an avid rp’er (roleplayer. it’s easier to type.) on many websites, and I know some very safe ones! The prominent example of this is Chickensmoothie, a multipurpose community website that is absolutely safe for kids. The roleplay forums section of the site is proof of this, as they don’t allow anything over PG, or **very** mild PG-13. Anything explicit is immediately deleted, and the perpetrator banned.
    Roleplaying isn’t bad in the least. It’s very easy to dodge the bad side of it as well, if one knows how. If the rp’er doesn’t know how to steer clear of this side of roleplaying, this is where the parent should step in, and limit them to websites that don’t allow that sort of thing.
    Roleplaying is simply cooperative writing on an improv story, and it can be a great way to let young writers flourish. Rp’ing is one of my favorite pastimes, as it allows me to temporarily become somebody else, and let my imagination run wild.

    Ah, and if it matters, this is from the perspective of a young teen, who has had rp’ing experience since I was roughly 7-8 years old. Hope this helped.

  5. Honestly, I am a thirteen year old girl and I’ve been RPing for a few ears now (since I was probably ten or eleven). I do think you’re overreacting a bit. Roleplaying can be very fun and actually beneficial. I have found that my real life friends and I that do RP have been much more confident in ourselves in our daily life. I don’t think you should have shut it down completely. If you are worried about her interacting in “dirty” RPs, tell her that if someone she is talking to someone who starts acting inappropriately, she should block them. Also, I highly doubt that she came across inapproriate roleplays. When you roleplay on Instagram, you usually follow others in your fandom (a fanbase you are involved in). I know that the One Direction fandom is mostly innocent and is made up of younger fans. I have been RPing on Instagram for quite a while and I don’t think I’ve ever searched “#RP” or things like that at all. I’m not trying to be disrespectful, I understand your concern as a parent.

  6. Sixteen year old roleplayer here. (I’ve been RPing since I was 11, and learned many lessons the hard way.) It was refreshing to read this and understand the parents’ point of view. My primary RP medium is Twitter, where I take part in ‘slice of life’ RP.

    Every RP community is different, and like real life, can often be found in cliques. Many people are very kind. Most of my online friends have been made through RP. If at some point you find your child going back into the RP business, just make sure that she steers clear of 18+ RP (aka dirty RP, lewd RP, or smut RP.) Roleplay is a fun hobby and a good outlet for the daily stress of highschool life, especially for people like me with disabilities. I wish you the best and hope your child is doing well.

  7. Okay but let me say –

    Not all roleplay is as bad as it seems. It actually helps improve literacy skills at a young age.
    I’ve been RPing since I was around 12 years old. And nothing bad has happened, only thing that has changed is my knowledge on how to structure stories properly and how to make a character equally more interesting. I get where you’re coming from, but this is a hobby that a lot of people have and surprisingly put a LOT of work into.

    I respect what you’re saying, and she was certainly too young to RP. Maybe if she was on a game like Animal Jam or a kid friendly game and RPing then, you wouldn’t have to worry.

    but keep in mind that RPing isn’t all doom and gloom.

    have a nice day ❤

  8. My sister started rp’ing on IG and I saw her phone — she seems to be into cat rp, and there is a lot of sexual language like licking cores and members. It’s clearly not innocent, and I’m not sure why she’s doing it, since she is only 11. What would you suggest we say to her? Thanks

    1. Amino is BAD! Particularly the NEKO amino community.

      I’m relieved others are seeing it. And mine did get involved in sexual roleplay, extensively. It’s nearly impossible to monitor because it goes on in PRIVATE CHAT in the different communities.

      Mine confessed. I was watching things and everything seemed benign but there’s no way to monitor deleted chats parents! So I was unaware. Thought it just a creative outlet for writing.

      Mine is having a terrible time with the guilt over it. I’ve tried to alleviate it by saying curiousity during puberty is natural but hiding it for so long was not right.

      For the person who used the term “playing house”. Yeah.. massive red flag. That’s the first description mine gave me when they confessed. Playing house includes going to bed, and sex.

      1. Amino is not nearly as bad as it seems. If you were to report the private chat as sexually explicit then Team Amino will remove it and most likely ban the sexual roleplayers

    2. As an IT specialist, I always tell clients that are parents to install spyware and surveillance tools on the childs devices. That way, the kid will not know they are being watched

  9. I am 13, and I roleplay. It is a very creative hobby, and it’s like writing a story with your friends. I am very safe. It’s an amazing thing to do, if you are careful. I steer from bad stuff. But it really boosts my creativity, and It’s so much fun. So it’s easy to take the precautions and still rp.

  10. That also goes for other roleplaying sites. I just don’t understand why some will label their display names after the names of evil spirits and their master and then you hear this saying “it’s just roleplay” Well you know what, I know it’s deeper than that which is why I don’t accept every friend request. I believe there are spiritual dangers of roleplay as well as the physical aspect.

  11. There is a difference between playing a role-play game or rpg, and simply lying. It sounds like your daughter doesn’t get the context. Roleplaying is when you and others engage in a game. True, you are pretending to be a character you make up, but there are set rules from the get go. Keep in mind that these games often take place in Fictional Universes, and rarely deal with real life people or events. For example, one of these instances is when you base your character off yourself. I often play characters with the name James or Jamie, and it is rude to play someone without their permission. What your daughter is doing is not roleplaying, but simply lying about who she is. It doesn’t seem like she is playing a specific game, but rather telling random people on the Internet that she is blood related to these celebrities. If she does anything else besides tell people about this character’s daily life, then it could actually be considered roleplaying
    Keep in mind, typical roleplaying format is “This person walks over to the door. This person does this.” not “I am this person and this is my actual life”

  12. Hi! I’m a little older than your daughter, and I rp. I understand your worries as a parent. I’ve seen some people do some very inappropriate rp, and it’s disguisting. Just like with cyberbullying, people think they can do anything they want just because they’re behind the screen, and that’s not true, because anyone doing harmful activity is sometimes caught. I avoid doing role plays like that, and I usually rp as fictional characters. I think you need to teach your daughter about the dangers of the internet. I was in her situation a few times. I’ve come across perverts and cyberbullies and even cyber stalkers(adults who cyberbully people). They have never caused me harm irl, but my mom didn’t want me talking to them anymore and I listened. However aside from rp, I have some internet friends and my mom gave me some rules.
    But not all rp is bad. I’ve been in some really fun ones. Keep in mind that everything they do is fake. If someone says they are hitting your daughter, it is fake. However, there are some salty role players. One strategy a cyberbully used on me was to rp beating me up. They were not saying it as if it was rp, they were actually harassing me online. I think that if they start being mean and the character they rp as isn’t supposed to be that way, or if they say something sexual or ask about her identity or start cursing her out, then she should block those people. Treat it like cyberbullying. If they are mean, it’s a no no. If they are nice and don’t ask really person stuff like where she lives they are ok. As for being on her iPod a lot, lots of kids my age are like that with there phones. Encourage her getting off the screen once and a while.

  13. I’m a mother of two, one of which is a thirteen year old girl who is very involved in role playing. And after reading your story I can confidently say

    You’re being a helicopter mom.

    I know we want the best for our children, but hovering over them and watching their every move allows their trust in us to decline. My daughter knows what she’s allowed and not allowed to do or go on, and I trust her. She knows her actions have consequences, and her role playing has been fairly innocent. She even voluntarily shows me some of her role playing chats with her friends on Instagram, and shes excited to share something she’s so enthusiastic about with me. My advice is to not restrict your daughter, because no matter what you expose her to there will always be a part you dont want her to see. Its life. Its growing up and learning and sheltering her away isn’t going to make it any better. My daughter greatly appreciates me being so trusting with her. I wouldn’t worry too much.

  14. I think that if you consider roleplaying as a bad thing for your child, you’re restraining his maturity. Let’s face it, without smut (which is something you always read when you’re ready, it simply can’t be forced) a lot of kids would end up in very bad situations because, unlike parents, smut actually teaches the kids what sexuality is & prepare them to the real world. Smut make their sexual education & if you think that it is bad, ask yourself why countries where children have sexual education classes also have the lowest number of teen moms.

  15. This is such an ignorant article. Rp isn’t harmful and majority of people over the age of 18 state in their rules that they won’t smut with anyone underage. And, by the way, not all role-play is dirty.

  16. Oh No!!! My Daugherty My actually have a life of her own, What the hell am I to do, Here is my advice to the OP Grow the fuck a a little, Its their life Not yours, Pulling someone out of role playing can have devastating results, Reason cause Role playing is a psychological path when you interfere with someone’s personals fantasy’s, you are playing with something extremely very dangerous,Exploring your fantasy’s is a part of being who their are, So my advice to you and all parents out their is to butt out of your kids personal life.

  17. Ya yo, I’m like 15 and I engage in all sorts of roleplay it ain’t all bad, I roleplay with starwars and anime characters and it’s more of a fun then sexy experience. Dont let this old wives tale detour your kids from rping online, there’s always going to be a dirty aspect of everything just do your best to keep your kids away from it and let them have some fun, don’t be a helicopter.

  18. Hello,

    I came across this article and, despite it being more than three years old and your daughter probably is older now, I still would like to place my opinion on this.

    I am a fourteen year old role-player who has been role-playing for three years and I would like to say this; not all role-playing is bad. I have lived with many adults who knew I was an active role-player and allowed me to continue to do so because it expands your creativity through writing. I am a writer and to share your stores with one or more people (also known as 1×1 or group RP) is wonderful. It lets other people see how you think and even engage into those ideas. I am thinking that you are probably overreacting.

    While some role-plays (or RP’s) are not kid-friendly, many people have made communities that are only directed towards younger audiences. Most 18+ communities even give warnings/options for you to excuse yourself if you are under that age. Some even kick you off if they find that you are younger than so for the sake of safety for both the site/community and the child.

    I have engaged in some really fun and interesting RP’s over the years. While at first, I was very poor at replying with paragraphs, I have grown and engaged in RP’s that had lasted half a year! They weren’t usually adult role-plays, as I enjoy science fiction and action with anthropomorphic animals/mythical creatures. They do involve some violence as they are usually things like zombies, Halo, or whatever my RP partner or I think of, but non-sexual.

    RPing is a good thing for me personally because I have Asperger’s, which affects my ability to communicate effectively. Because of my lack of social skills, I have a hard time making friends. People I have encountered during my RPing years were very kind for the most part. Of course, I was involved with drama because of my lack of consistency from my depression. But mostly, people are kind and I am not afraid to call them out if they are not. The typing/texting controls my urge to pace or pick at myself, I am able to communicate and make friends with my partner(s), and I am able to do the one things I like to do; write. I am not sure if this is/was the same thing with your daughter, but this is my experience.

    Thank you for your time,

    – Tommy (12/17/17)

  19. I’m fourteen and I’m an active roleplayer. I can assure you, roleplaying is innocent as long as you don’t get caught up in dirty roleplaying. I’ve been roleplaying on Instagram since 2015 and I have had no problems whatsoever. In fact, I’ve met some absolutely amazing people from it. Roleplaying can be an excellent way to increase a child’s literacy. Whenever my mom asks me what roleplaying is I describe it as writing a book back and forth. In the three years I’ve spent doing roleplay I’ve met great new friends that are: Supportive, empathetic, friendly and encouraging. These people I’ve met have guided me through some pretty rough times and I firmly believe I wouldn’t be me without them. I mentioned literacy earlier, roleplaying has greatly increased my grammar, spelling and vocabulary. Roleplaying has also helped me grow more understanding and sympathetic. I’ve learned how to develop characters and how to improve my writing. I feel that as long as your kids don’t get caught up in dirty roleplay they can learn a lot and meet some great people!

  20. Rp isn’t even bad I do it and I started at a young age too I’ve been using it for two years now and it honestly depends on how stupid you are about giving out your personal information I’m not calling your daughter stupid because it seemed she was doing everything out so.

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