If you haven’t heard of this app- you need to read this.
I received a phone call last week from a friend who was just coming through a tunnel of terror from the prior 48 hours. Here’s what happened.
Her daughter- we’ll call her Rachel- is an awesome kid. The kind who never throws a fit when asked to do something, who always follows the rules, and who is compliant and easy to parent. Even at 13 she’s sweet, but like any 13-year-old, that stage of life can bring moodiness.
Rachel has a phone and had been a little more distracted than usual over the course of a day or two. Her phone had been pinging non-stop, and she needed to focus on her homework. Her mom, we’ll call her Jennifer, walked into Rachel’s bedroom where the laptop was on the bed, the homework was spread out, and Rachel was busy on her phone responding to the incessant pinging. Jennifer had a funny feeling- a mom’s intuition. One she almost brushed aside, chalking up Rachel’s behavior to being 13 and moody.
Just recently, she had asked Rachel to sit down with her and go through her phone together after the principal at school urged parents to do so. Jennifer was not surprised that Rachel’s phone looked in order, based on everything Rachel showed her. Nothing going on that wasn’t permitted. Must be hard for other parents when they find something on their child’s phone that raises a red flag, she thought. Phew! No red flags here!
Luckily for Rachel, Jennifer went against everything her heart was telling her to do and before she knew it, the words “you need a break- give me your phone now” came out of her mouth.
Rachel looked up and grabbed her phone saying, “wait one second while I respond to…” Jennifer snapped up the phone and saw notifications top to bottom on the screen.
Notifications that continued as the phone was in Jennifer’s hand and that were lewd and very obviously directed at Rachel. Innocently, Rachel had discovered Kik, an “anonymous” messaging app frequented by cyber predators looking for kids like Rachel. Unfortunately, one of them found her almost immediately.
It started with an innocent game…”Have you ever?’
Every response Rachel gave in the game elicited an overwhelmingly positive and gushing response from the predator who initiated the game. She knew better than to talk to strangers online, but this was harmless. After all, it was just a game. A game that awarded emojis and points. And where every answer Rachel provided resulted in gushing praise for her intelligence, personality, wit, and beauty.
Before she knew it, the game escalated.
He was so nice and had so many compliments! But he was asking her about things she didn’t understand. Not wanting to appear childish, Rachel googled certain terms and questions so she’d appear older when responding. Then he gave her his phone number to call- all within 48 hours.
About then is when Jennifer entered Rachel’s bedroom. Her keen 6th sense took over, and she seized the phone, discovering and unraveling the lewd and predatory conversations. Against every grain of her heart that wanted to be her daughter’s friend and supporter, something told her to get the phone- and she acted on it. It was so incredibly hard for her, but she did it.
Fast forward. The person who was engaging with Rachel- in the privacy of their home, her bedroom, was a predator. Because of the information he had given Rachel, he was able to be tracked to another state and identified. Jennifer did the right thing, and most likely saved her daughter’s life as well as possibly the lives of other girls. Surely, Rachel wasn’t his only victim.
We hear these stories on the news every day. We think they happen to strangers somewhere else. They don’t. They happen everywhere. Every day. To us, our friends or family, and people we know.
Access to social media has changed the game, and we have to adapt our strategy as parents.
Where to start? The Triple “S” Course for parents is a great starting point. There are 3 free videos and an ebook offered at no cost, but they are only available through 3/9/16. Check them out here: getsafeacademy.com
My hat’s off to Jennifer, who listened to her gut. If she hadn’t, would her daughter be the next news story?
NOTE: I asked “Jennifer” if it was alright with her to publish her story with names changed. She wanted her story to be shared for the benefit of others. Jennifer’s sincere hope in sharing her story is that it empowers other parents to learn from her terrifying experience, and that it will potentially prevent the victimization of other innocent children.