Katarina Strode’s children were the stars of her social media content.
An aspiring lifestyle influencer, the married mother of two began sharing images of her children, a 4-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, on Instagram and TikTok while they were in the womb.
After giving birth to her little ones, she would regularly post snaps of them playing in the park or frolicking in bathing suits on the beach, thinking her friends, family, and her more than 40,000 digital followers would enjoy scrolling through the wholesome images.
But the blonde’s childish actions came to a halt in the spring of 2022, when a mom vlogger discovered that an online stranger had been saving images of her son to his phone and reposting the material on fake TikTok accounts, pretending to be the father. of the child.
Knowing about that woman’s experience was a wake-up call.
“It literally sent a chill down my spine,” Strode, 25, from North Carolina, told The Post. “I never realized that people, who might want to hurt my children, could save pictures of them on their phones and do whatever they wanted with them.”
After confessing her fears to her husband, an active-duty Marine whose name she chose not to reveal, Strode spent hours filing and deleting all posts that featured her children’s names and faces.
It was not an easy feat.
For years, Strode was an enthusiastic part of the pervasive “sharing” phenomenon. More than 75% of moms and dads share their child’s image online, according to a 2021 survey by Security.org. (The survey also found that eight in 10 parents have social media friends or followers they’ve never met in real life.)
Now, Strode is one of 10 million parents under the TikTok hashtag KidsOnline, expressing remorse for unwittingly leaving his offspring vulnerable to tech-savvy predators.
She regrets sharing the images of her children in the first place, but the troubled mother is grateful she deleted the images from the internet just before the rise of artificial intelligence.
“This AI thing is terrifying,” Strode said.
Diffusion models, a new AI tool, use real-life images from the Internet, including images appearing on social networking sites and personal blogs, as training data to generate new images based on a user’s desires.
According to a recent Washington Post analysis, AI-generated images of children engaged in sexual acts could disrupt the central tracking system that blocks child sexual abuse materials, or CSAM, from the web. The disruption in the system could make it difficult to determine if an image is real or generated by AI.
“Creeps can literally take any photo and turn a child’s image into anything, even what they would look like as adults,” Strode snarled. “It’s crazy.”
In a trending clip on TikTok, a mom known as @OGBri420 said that “social media is not a safe space to post photos of your kids” and reposted a PSA that offered detailed insight into how virtual villains can inappropriately manipulate a child’s image in seconds.
In May 2021, YouTube star Shyla Walker, 25, best known for sharing content centered around her daughter, Souline, 3, decided that she would no longer display the girl’s face on any of her high-traffic platforms and he told Insider: “I wish I had known sooner how innocent things can be used in not-so-innocent ways.”
Walker added: “I would post innocent photos of her in a bikini, and now I cringe when I look back because I feel like I was essentially just feeding her child predators.”
Influential ex-moms aren’t alone in their embarrassment over sharing too much. A-list parents are also riddled with guilt.
Hollywood heavyweights like Ayesha Curry, 34, mother of three and wife of Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, as well as actress Anne Hathaway, 40, and pop singer Pink, 43 , openly expressed their contrition for highlighting their children on the Internet.
“If we had known in the past how chaotic life would be, I don’t think we would have,” Curry told Insider, before confirming that her babies are no longer in the public eye.
Yamalis Diaz, a child and adolescent psychologist at NYU Langone, tells The Post that instead of wallowing in regret, parents should focus their energies on teaching their kids about social media safety.
“We are going in a dangerous direction with the number of kids posting and the type of posts parents are posting,” Diaz said.
“But if you’ve already posted things about your children that you fear may ultimately cause some harm, you can have a developmentally sensitive conversation with your child and admit that you’ve made a mistake,” she said. “Telling your kids that you shared something about them with lots of people online and explaining why that was wrong can help them understand the dangers of the internet.”
Strode hopes her children learn from her mistakes.
“I want to educate you about some of the harmful people and things out there,” she said, noting that the older generations were unable to warn her and her fellow Gen Z and millennials about the pitfalls of cyberspace, mainly because they didn’t have to deal with it.
“Our parents put our photos in a scrapbook, we put our kids on Facebook and Instagram,” Strode said.
“Yes, that gets you likes and clicks, but what impact will that have on the safety of our children?”