Teenagers love being on social media. They use their phones and Facebook to contact their friends; they take pictures and send them via Instagram or SnapChat; they figure out what to buy by taking photos and sending to their friends. Unfortunately, they also are easily lured through social media by sexual predators, child trafficking rings and thieves.
In this video, Coby Persin conducted an experiment to see how easily he could convince teen-age girls to come meet him when all they did was speak to him in chat rooms on social networking sites.
He talked with the parents before conducting this experiment. The parents were willing to participate in the video. First, he created a fake profile. Second, he contacted the three girls and chatted with them for a few days. Third, he suggested they meet in a place offline. The first girl wanted to meet in a park and said she had to wait until her father was asleep before she could leave. She thought Coby was 15. The second girl invited the person she thought was another teen-ager over her house while her father was gone. The third one was willing to get inside a van driven the by stranger. Her parents pretended to be criminals that wanted to attack her and capture her. She was terrified. In every case, the parents thought they had discussed the issue with their daughters before this experiment. They all were generally surprised on the actions of their children.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, these social networking sites are dangerous for teens, and the practice is common. Even with media attention on the dangers of social networking, the FBI receives hundreds of complaints per year about children who have been victims of criminal incidents on social networks. These incidents include but are not limited to:
- Adults posing as children who are about the same age as the victim who later travel to abuse the child; and
- Adults posing as children who convince the child to expose themselves and/or perform sexual acts over webcam and later extort the child to perform additional acts.
According to an Internet safety pamphlet recently published by NCMEC, a survey of 12- to 17-year-olds revealed that 38 percent had posted self-created content, such as photos, videos, artwork or stories. Another survey of 10- to 17-year-olds revealed 46 percent admit to having given out their personal information to someone they did not know. The likelihood that kids will give out personal information over the Internet increases with age, with 56 percent of 16- to 17-year-olds most likely sharing personal information.
Because of the social aspect of these sites, they often ask users to post a profile. The profiles contain information, such as their age, gender, hobbies and interests. While these profiles help kids connect and share common interests, individuals who want to victimize kids can use those online profiles to search for potential victims. Kids sometimes compete to see who has the greatest number of contacts and will add new people to their lists even if they do not know them in real life.
What Can Parents Do?
Discuss these ideas with your children:
- Only “friend” and connect to people online that you know personally and delete those you do not know personally;
- Set social media security settings so that only confirmed friends and connections can see what you are posting;
- Never take a picture of yourself or write anything by text, e-mail, or social media that you would not want everyone in the world to see;
- Immediately delete and never forward a picture of anyone doing something sexual;
- Choose screen names and usernames that are appropriate;
- Never post publicly or give anyone your phone number, e-mail address, or home address unless you know them personally;
- Be aware that anyone you meet online may not be who they say they are; and
- Immediately tell a parent or trusted adult if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation online, even if you are afraid that things have already gone too far.
- Make sure your children don’t say they are older than they are just to get a Facebook page. Although Facebook has a rule that only those who are 13 and older can have accounts, the children get around that by making themselves older and Facebook never checks even when parents complain.
Find other tips for how to talk to kids about online predators, limits for what to reveal online, cyberbullying, and other Internet safety topics here:
- Interactive age-appropriate Internet safety games and tips for 3rd-8th graders, created by the FBI;
- Video workshop by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; and
- Short videos about cyberbullying, created by middle and high school students.
- Share Coby’s video with other parents https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4sHoDW8QU4
- Get software designed to monitor what your children are doing on their phones and on social media.
- Block certain sites that could be the most problematic.
Featured photo credit: How Girls Easily Trust Strangers On Social Media via google.com