If your kid has a cell phone or a tablet and has downloading privileges you need to read this.
We all know that child predators will do just about anything to groom children and teens (and even their family members) to gain their trust, and this includes taking advantage of messaging apps on their mobile devices.
Kik. WhatsApp. Yik Yak. Omegle.
What? You’ve never heard of these?
That’s exactly what child predators are counting on. And it’s working.
This news report shows how quickly a fake account of a 13-year-old girl started receiving disgusting sexually charged messages from men old enough to be her father.
At least one girl has been murdered (there could be more) from meeting up with people she met on a messaging app.
And this former Tampa Parks and Recreation Department employee is accused of using a messaging app to solicit nude photos from a 15-year-old boy. That’s on top of other charges he sexually abused to other 14-year-old boys.
If we had to identify the worst app in the bunch, it would be Kik. With 200 million registered users, the mobile messaging app has been at the center of several recent cases.
Predators love this app (and others like them) because they can remain anonymous and are luring a young, impressionable crowd who probably haven’t been taught how dangerous sexual predators are or how they even work.
Kik offers free, unlimited texting, along with juvenile-type games and emojis. Forget about an approved friend or contact list, or even reasonable parental controls – Kik lets anyone send anything to anyone.
Here’s some examples of messages that predators have sent to kids on Kik:
“I’m 29 and I want to be your boyfriend.”
“How obedient are you?”
“Let me look out for you on here.”
Are you grossed out yet? We are.
Parents – you need to include this sort of information in any ‘stranger danger’ talks you have with your children – especially if they have their own mobile devices and are allowed to download apps.
Here are some tips from The Cyber Safety Lady about how to better educate your kids and yourselves about cyber smarts:
“Digital parenting isn’t about staying one step ahead or trying to outsmart your teen. Our job as parents is to make sure that their desire to push those boundaries and possibly come to harm is lessened by understanding the dangers to themselves if they do, respecting our leadership and wisdom, and yes believing that the consequences from mum and dad are a real and inevitable deterrent.” source: https://thecybersafetylady.com.au/tag/kik-messenger/
“You should set up parental controls particularly if your child is under 13yrs of age. For teens, particularly younger ones, request that your child ask permission to download software on their devices until you feel they are old enough to act responsibly.” source: https://thecybersafetylady.com.au/2013/03/cyber-safety-its-not-just-facebook-mobile-apps/
“Where To Start?
- Start early, start talking about computing and the Internet as soon as they show interest, even if its just in what you are doing on your computer.
- Point out that the Internet is a porthole to the world, and it can be dangerous as well as exiting and fun.
- Educate children about their digital identity, and how important it is to keep their public profile discrete and protected.
- Never threaten to take it all away if they are in trouble online, give them a safe haven to talk to you. Having said that, there might be times you do have to restrict their access.
- Set times for online time and offline time, so they don’t get used to having 24 hour access.
- Reward good online behaviour with iTunes gift cards and small gadgets they want.
- Reduce time online for unacceptable online behaviour, like cyber bullying or bad language.
- Find out from an expert what safety filters to use so they don’t stumble upon Adult only sites.”
What’s really interesting about this post is that the information pulled comes from a variety of sources across the globe. Canada, Australia, and the United States are all directly referenced, but many links make mention to messaging app services in other countries and how law enforcement is having a tough time cracking down on these cases. It seems the child predators exist everywhere, and parents around the world are struggling with how to educate themselves and their children on cyber safety.
Anyone who works with a youth group should also be aware of these messaging apps and on the lookout for odd behaviors by staffers and volunteers who mention the apps. Youth sports coaches, parents and volunteers should also know about these messaging apps and listen carefully to the conversations teammates have. Perhaps it would be worth it to have some of these frank discussions with your league’s parents and kids?
We also strongly suggest that any league incorporate child safety training into its screening procedures. For more information on what child safety training is and how it adds an extra layer of security for your league’s children, click here.