I love my iPhone. I mean, I really, truly love it for the wonderful ways it’s enabled me to meet people in all corners of the world via social media. Technology can be an amazing thing!
But as always, there are the stupid, evil people that make it difficult for the rest of us to have nice things, like social media apps. Or the Internet. Or children, apparently.
Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is warning parents to keep a closer eye on their children’s social media platforms after a man was arrested for raping a TEN YEAR OLD GIRL that he met through Snapchat.
You read that correctly.
22-year-old Austin Altman first contacted the unnamed 10-year-old on Snapchat. After exchanging information, Altman allegedly drove to Hernando County to pick her up (her parents were unaware of it).
After which he returned with her to his own residence…
…and allegedly raped her vaginally, anally, and orally. With his hand around her throat to hold her down, despite her telling him to stop four times.
Are the specific details hard to read? Good- they should be.
The horror of this little girl’s (yes, LITTLE GIRL) terrifying experience should be a powerful warning to parents to be vigilant about their kids’ use of social media, if using it at all.
The crime itself is horrendous. And social media has only made it easier for perverted criminals to gain access to their prey.
Yep, we’re once again having to remind people that although technology in the right hands is a gift, social media in the hands of pedophiles is a very, very bad thing.
These crimes have happened before. There are countless examples of creeps and pedophiles using social media accounts in order to seduce underage victims, often pretending to be the same age as their potential victim in order to gain his or her trust.
Example: a police sting operation in New Jersey just last year caught 24 adult males using the chat option in the game Fortnite to lure minors into conversations regarding sexual conduct. That’s 24 men caught…. in ONE WEEK.
These things will continue to happen, unless we safeguard our kids against them.
It can be really hard to keep up with the constantly evolving pace of social media apps. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on what kids are currently using, a new app comes out that’s even more popular than the last.
And as parents, it can be daunting to keep up with the flow of options.
Some parents simply prohibit their kids from using any social media at all. And of course that’s a viable option.
But this is not intended to be judgment against the parents that let their child use it- myself included. My kids range in age from 6-17, and while my younger children don’t use social media, my teens do.
Some parents let their children use social media at younger ages as well.
While it’s a parent’s personal decision to decide if and when their child can have social media accounts, the crucial point is that parents need to stay informed as to their child’s interactions on social media.
To that end, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Department has released a helpful graphic on their Facebook page that depicts a list of fifteen apps that they say many predators use to target kids- OUR kids.
Oh boy. While I consider myself a relatively informed social media user, even I was surprised by some of the apps that appear on this list.
Snapchat? Sure. While I don’t have a Snapchat account myself, I know all about it’s filters and the ability to have a pic self-delete within ten seconds (which personally seems shady to me to begin with, just saying!)
Tik Tok: if your kid is anything like mine, then he or she is probably obsessed with Tik Tok. My daughter constantly shares the musical video clips that she thinks are hilarious, & I must be old because I don’t get them.
Hot Or Not: From what I know of it, users post what they deem their most flattering selfies and are voted on whether they are, as per the app’s name, “hot or not”. They can also vote on other user’s photos.
This is clearly a self-esteem crisis waiting to happen, not to mention likely a pedophile playground.
Then we get into more of a grey area, with Bumble and Grindr– both are dating apps.
The same goes for MeetMe, which is basically a dating app that connects user based on geographic location. No thanks!!!
I personally wouldn’t want my minor using any dating apps, period, but naively never considered the idea that they might be interested in using them.
We sometimes give our kids too much credit for knowing what’s “safe” on social media and what’s not.
Many of the apps are private message exchanges, such as Ask.me, Kik, and Whatsapp, which allow users to have private, in-depth conversations.
And that’s all well and good if your kid is talking to a legitimate friend from school, but quite another if he or she is sharing her lift story with an adult stranger.
The reality is that there are numerous apps that allow a child predator to not only groom your child through private conversation, but even possibly locate him or her geographically.
If your child is using social media, you need to be vigilant. You can’t assume that your child is mature enough to know the difference between a dangerous situation and a safe one online, because even adults can be cat-fished by people faking their identities.
If you allow your child social media accounts, supervise them. Insist on being “friends” with their accounts. Monitor their posts, their activities, and their messages.
Some may consider that an invasion of privacy, and your boundaries are up to you. But not knowing this information could end up hurting your child- literally.
Stay as informed as possible on new apps and how they work. Yes, it can be complicated. It can be time-consuming. But your child’s safety is worth it.
Pedophiles are constantly devising new ways to try and contact potential new victims. We as parents must continue to stay on top of the social media learning curve to keep our kids safe.