Online predators are in the news and have been discovered on many social media sites recently. It has been released that thousands of adults are pretending they are a young person, to lure children and youth to be their friends and contacting them on popular social media sites such as Instagram, Snap Chat, Tik Tok and Facebook, to name a few. Now children can connect with stranges while playing video games. This is beyond scary.
What is so scary about these stories are that children believe that the internet is all true. If they have a question they can just Google it, or when they look it up the answer will be accurate. This is just how our world and our youth work today. We as adults also use the internet to look up various things and for the most part believe that they are true. So, here lies the problem, why would our children not believe that a nice picture a young person, is not actually who they say they are?
We know that Instagram is very popular among children these days, as they can post pictures of themselves and write in hashtags and in funny sentences made up of acronyms and slang that adults can hardly read. We also know that they love to see how many ‘LIKES’ that they receive on a post, or how many people will ‘FOLLOW’ them or ‘FRIEND’ them on a social media sites. The more likes or friends they have, possibly the more popular or important they feel that they are.
About a year ago, my 12 year old son had almost 5000 followers on Instagram and he was following as many people as he could. I heard his iPad notifying him one day and I picked it up and realized what he was doing! I just thought, because he had taken the Stranger Danger; Internet Safety & Bullying 101 course, the he would abide by what he learned and I would watch him when I could on his electronics, trusting that he would make the right decisions. That was a huge wake-up call for me. Since then, he does not use social media, because we both realized that for him, it was not a good fit at this time. He realized this when I showed him how vulnerable he made himself by potentially being in contact with so many people he didn’t even actually know.
There are many videos on YouTube that show children who are actually lured to homes and cars of people that they do not know, who posed as someone who they were not. Parents have made these videos with actors to see if their child would actually ‘fall’ for these actors and go with them, and sadly many times these children went with the stranger. Again, most of these children were told not to go with strangers, however, they did, despite what the parent taught them.
What is the scariest part about these online predators is that they can be someone who works in any type of setting or environment that appears safe. Or be in a normal setting like a restaurant that your family may go to. These predators can work in any profession. This is the reason why we created the blog post Safe Strangers and Stranger Danger was created. It is important for you to talk to your children about strangers and their dangers, whether this be online or in your community. Hopefully these stories can help some families out there with young kids on social media. Maybe the stories that have been shown on the news and YouTube can resonate with these young kids.
Our children’s safety programs at Your Digital Classroom give children the tools, education and ideas surrounding safety, but in the end, it is the child who has to be mature enough to handle whatever situation that they are faced with…. with the assistance of the parent, if needed and hopefully if offered.
Be safe everyone 🙂