Who doesn’t post pictures of their kids on Facebook? And what you see here is a photo, much like others — the blurry face of a young kid grinning at the camera. And if that’s all there was to this image, maybe it wouldn’t have set the police into action, storming into the father’s New Jersey home.

But there was more to this. Much more. The fuzzy photo above is zoomed-in and cropped. The full image of the 10-year-old that appeared on the social network was actually this.


In this Facebook pic, the boy is holding what looks like an assault rifle, which prompted one anonymous tipster to call the authorities. Next thing you know, the New Jersey Department of Youth and Family Services rallied the police, and together they descended upon the father’s house. The officers told the father to open his safe, but he refused. There were no criminal charges filed, and the police didn’t have any warrants, so they couldn’t compel the man to comply.

Good thing the gun depicted wasn’t what it appeared to be. In reality, it was a .22 hunting rifle designed to look like an assault rifle. In New Jersey, guns don’t have to be registered. And the boy, who actually did have a hunting license, was merely showing off his early birthday gift from his dad. Even so, it’s not hard to see what alarmed people about this image.

There is no doubt that gun control is a hot topic in America right now, but regardless of where you stand in the debate, there’s still an important takeaway here: A little common sense goes a long way when it comes to social media. After all, it’s called “sharing,” not “scrapbooking,” so take an extra moment to think about what you’re putting out there. If you’re pushing out controversial updates or images, there could be consequences — from alarm and outrage to a police squad showing up at your door.