Saturday, 7 December 2013

Why using celebrity images for profile avatars worries me.

This morning I read this article on the BBC news website about Ian Sluggett, 40, who pretended to be a 16-year-old boy when he made friends with girls aged between 13 and 16 on Facebook, and used pop stars as his profile in an attempt to lure them in.

He used Austin Mahone's picture instead of his own. I have no idea who Austin Mahone is but according to the BBC he's a seventeen year old who is a contender to be the next Justin Bieber. 

With two teenagers in the age range for 'grooming' by these predators this is a real fear that I have worried about since their early days on the computer. Now they have their own computers I have no control who they talk to, particularly through social media sites. So far I am lucky. They talk to friends only, but who are they talking to on game sites? My son and I have long arguments about the fact that taking his phone with him is not an excuse for not giving me the address where he is going.

In our genre many people use their book covers or their inspirational model, in fandom people use their stars.  That's not the same as saying 'look, I'm a gorgeous guy with model looks. But we have come across people using porn stars pictures or stock photography as themselves and that makes me uneasy because telling the world 'this is me' is is just wrong. It is lying.

I can't deny that if I see a good-looking person, male or female, in a profile pic, it catches my eye. The fact is though, most of the time we don't know who is behind the image. A lot of people keep their identity hidden for good reason, especially writers and readers in the LGBT genres. Sometimes it seems the world isn't ready for us yet.

But, like teenagers, if we're meeting people for the first time we should take basic precautions to be safe. Here is a site with tips for keeping safe. Yes it is aimed at kids, but I think it should apply to everyone who is taking that step.

I know I'm a worry-wart, but I want my kids, friends and the wider community never to fall prey to guys like Ian Sluggett.


1 comment:

  1. I use a model's photo since I am uncomfortable with my appearance but there are "real" pics of me if you look in my profile. Then again I am a 40 yr old woman and not some pedophile.