It’s the Facebook warning that’s striking fear into the hearts of parents everywhere.
Internet creeps are sending sleazy messages and requests for nude pics to children as young as seven right under the noses of unsuspecting parents. Now those parents are fighting back, urging other mums and dads to check their children’s phones to keep them safe.
When Brad Summer allowed his seven-year-old daughter to connect with friends and family on the music/video social network Musical.ly, he thought it was all harmless fun. Musical.ly is an app that allows users to sing along to their favourite songs, then upload the clips and share with friends.
His daughter, who doesn’t have her own smartphone, used the app to make ‘goofy duets of songs’ with her cousins, all under the watchful eyes of her parents. It’s the second time in recent months that a horrified parent has warned others about predators targeting little girls on the app.
On 18 August, Brad’s daughter received a message from nine-year-old ‘Jessy’. What started out as harmless chat soon progressed when ‘Jessy’ started requesting shirtless and, eventually, nude photos.
Send me some photos
Fortunately, the little girl told her dad and he contacted police immediately. They are now following up the case, having tracked down the IP address of ‘Jessy.’
The horrified father took to social media to warn other parents just how dangerous some of the new breed of social sharing apps can be.
“This post is meant as a warning call to others that let their children use this app,” the distraught dad posted on his Facebook page. “This app was on one of our phones for use when we were around. We have accepted friends of theirs and our daughter believed this was another one. I never thought of someone pretending to be 9 to gain access to my child. We live and learn and I continue to do so everyday as a parent.”
It’s not the first time a parent has gone public with a disturbing Musical.ly app warning. In March, an Australian mother raised the alarm when her eight-year-old daughter Charli fell prey to an online predator pretending to be Justin Bieber.
Charli was using the app one afternoon when a series of messages popped up from the creepy Bieber pretender. The messages asked whether she would like to win a video call with The Biebs. Then Charli was instructed, as her horrified mother looked on, to send a naked photo or a photo of her vagina to win the call.
An online predator’s dream
“This app is an online predator’s dream, because it clearly gives access to so many kids,” Alicia told news.com. “What sickens me is how many young girls might’ve got this message in their bedroom, while their parents are downstairs cooking dinner, and decided to take a quick photo and send it. It could happen so easily.”
And KiK, the “chat platform built especially for teens“, also has parents worried this week after a Central West NSW woman discovered disgusting messages sent to her 12-year-old daughter. Sarah (not her real name), tells news.com.that she’d been carrying out a random check of her daughters iPad when a series of messages and images/videos from strange men caught her eye.
The images and videos of explicit, sexual content included some which appeared to show intercourse with underage girls. Sarah reported it to police and wants other parents to know just how easily online grooming can happen, even right under the nose of parents.
“My daughter has now seen horrible, horrible things that I just can’t take out of her head now,” she tells news.com. “I’d like to see more awareness brought to parents and schools, and people taking it more seriously realising that this can happen.”
The take away message for parents of teens? It pays to be vigilant when it comes to your children and their access to social media, chat and sharing apps. We’ll leave the last words to Brad.
“My child came and told me and it didn’t get any further luckily. I’m sure that others families aren’t so lucky. To those who have went through this as we have or worse, I stand with you! let’s fight these bastards together and give our children their safety back.”
Take a look at our previous article about cyber safety for more information about keeping your children safe online, and to find out how Mum Central readers can trial Family Zone’s child internet protection service free for a month.