Deceitful Ways Predators Are Using Apps And Social Media To Target Children

A Kentucky mom livestreamed a video addressed to her Facebook followers, which has been viewed hundreds of times.

She told her followers that she found out that her daughter had been communicating with someone who was claiming to be a 12-year-old girl through Pinterest. Police told her later that it was likely a sexual predator, attempting to groom her daughter for a face-to-face meeting.

According to the woman, her daughter left her phone at home while attending school in early February. As she sat down to rest, the phone started to vibrate. She checked her daughter's phone and found messages through Pinterest. She found sexual messages addressed to her child supposedly from another 12-year-old girl.

She realized that something was wrong and contacted the sheriff's office. An officer was sent to her house right away. The officer said "her daughter was likely talking to an adult man from overseas."

Pinterest is not a message platform. The only way you can exchange images and videos is to create a board where they can be shared. The mother said the perpetrator created a private board that only he and her daughter could view.

By the time the mother figured this out, the board had been deleted. Her daughter said no videos or photos were sent. When the mother asked her daughter why she didn't say anything, the daughter said she didn't know.

The mother's friend, a counselor, explained that her daughter feels shame. Although the conversation the daughter had online did not seem right to her, she didn't think she had to tell her mom about something that another "12-year-old girl" was telling her. The girl did not think that she was talking to a grown man.

The woman took a photo of the officer who came to her house and posted it in a private board to the perpetrator with a message to stop contacting the account. But this, she said, did not stop the perpetrator.

In fact, he continued trying to contact her daughter and even tried to create two more chat boards with her daughter, but she declined those.

The mother said that it is important to report the information first before deleting or blocking anything on social media accounts so that you can provide evidence.

She reminded her followers that, "Once you block the person, the whole chat will go away." She said you should contact authorities first and look for private boards first before blocking or deleting.

The detective and digital forensic examiner with the attorney general's Cyber Crime Division said, "Don't delete these conversations. Get these conversations to the police. We will download them and use them as evidence in a potential prosecution." Kyle Woosley "Mom warns of cyber child exploitation" (Feb. 23, 2021).

Commentary and Checklist

Sex offenders use social media and private messaging via social media to make contact with their targets.

According to the Youth Internet Safety Survey (YISS), one in 25 or four percent of the youth in one year received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to make offline contact.

Unfortunately, some kids still fall victim to these sex offenders because these sex offenders are able to manipulate these young people into criminal sexual relationships by appealing to their desire to be understood, appreciated, etc.

Steps families can take to help eliminate contact from predators:

  • Limit online time and social media access.
  • Make certain that your children understand you will not get angry or be embarrassed if they have questions. You just want to help and make sure they are safe.
  • Make sure that the computer is placed in an open, common room in your house or in an open computer room in a library or other place where minors use computers.
  • Talk to children and explain clearly why they should not disclose any personal information online, including personal information and images.
  • Tell children that they cannot get images back once they post them online.
  • Review what messages children are receiving and sending.
  • Teach children how to use privacy settings or limit access to their profiles.
  • Instruct children to add only the people they actually know in-person to their contact list. Do not add online only relationships.
  • Encourage children to create strong passwords and to choose appropriate screen names.
  • Check the sites that they visit, and make sure that you read and follow safety tips that the sites provide.
  • Go through social networking websites with children and discuss and share ideas about which websites may be potentially risky.
  • If you detect any inappropriate activity, report it to the website or law enforcement immediately.
  • Make it a rule for children to never give out their personal information or meet anyone in person unless they inform you first and ask for your consent. If, for whatever reason, you agree that your child can meet with an online friend, talk to the parents or guardians of that person first and accompany your child to meet with that individual in a public place. Don't leave the child.
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