Social media presents dangers for children many of us did not face when we were younger. Facebook, Myspace (if you remember Myspace), dating web sites, and other online entities aimed at bringing us together are a wonderful way to meet new people and socialize — but sometimes, the wrong people meet. Internet prankster Coby Persin (with parental consent and involvement) created a fake Facebook profile to see just how easy it is for a predator to lure an impressionable child or young teen off of the internet and into the real world. The result? It’s probably a good idea to check your kids’ cell phones and social media accounts.
Persin, as “Jason Biazzo,” began chatting with three girls — ages 14, 13, and 12 — on Facebook before ultimately arranging to meet up with each of the children. The girls, all of whom revealed personal information like their phone numbers and addresses to the complete stranger, thought they were meeting their dream boy. However, they were actually meeting the 21-year-old prankster…and their parents.
Without fail, the three young girls all followed through with their ill-wrought plans to meet their cool, new internet friend — and without fail, their parents were terrified that they had done so. Each time, the girls’ parents confronted them. “How can you do this? You’re twelve years old,” one parent said as he and Person busted his daughter sneaking out of the house when she thought he was asleep. “You could have been raped and murdered. We already lost your mother. What would I do if anything happened to you?”
In the comment section of the YouTube video, the internet reacted with a mix of horror and gratitude for this important social experiment:
Some, however, feel that this video was in poor taste because it perpetuates the idea that this very real scenario can actually happen to children — like “Free Range Parenting” advocate Lenore Skenazy. Skenazy is an advocate for lazy parents excusing their lack of discipline, unwillingness to be actively involved in their children’s lives, and general awfulness as people by claiming that allowing a 9-year-old to ride the subway alone is somehow character-building and beneficial to the child.
On her web site Skenazy, who adores her well-earned title of “World’s Worst Mom,” complained that this social experiment was designed to create a “boogeyman” to dissuade parents who really want to allow their kids the freedom to — wait, what is Little Johnny doing again? Oh, yeah, they don’t know because they aren’t actively involved in their kids’ lives.
“The video shows an admitted prankster, Coby Persin, who looks to be about 30, pretending to be a teen as he chats with some girls online. They agree to meet, whereupon he films each girl’s shock and near collapse when it turns out to be him and his terrifying ‘safety’ message,” Skenazy complains. “Worst of all (to me), is that the girls’ parents are alongside Coby, heaping guilt and rage upon their daughter.”
“The terror of a kidnapping mixed with the horror and soul-melting shame of being tricked and trapped by your own parents is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” she writes, completely missing the point of the experiment because she’s the sort of person to send her 9-year-old on the subway alone.
“So, like the Joey Salads video that showed a man going to the playground and luring children off to see his puppy, it’s not that this cannot be done. It’s that the whole “experiment” is premised on the idea that this is a common scenario,” she concluded cluelessly. “Which, thank god, it is not.”
The few people who take Skenazy seriously chimed in, condemning the revelation that this sort of thing can happen:
What the “World’s Worst Mom” and her bafflingly stupid followers fail to realize is that the risk of one’s child being kidnapped, raped, and murdered (in any order) is probably worth taking a little time out of the day to check on one’s kids, leave them with someone responsible who will at least make sure they are OK periodically when going out, or generally not be awful examples of humanity.
As one of the parents commenting on the web site for irresponsible parents pointed out, often these girls are well aware of a man’s age when they meet him. To an extent, she is correct. Recently, I conducted an experiment of my own on OKCupid, a dating site geared toward adults Posing as a girl between the ages of 13 and 15, I decided to see how many men would knowingly attempt to have sex with a child. Within one hour, I was contacted by 17 men in total, many of whom got extremely graphic — even knowing I was “underage.”
In other words, even if this Free Range Idiot was correct that girls know the ages of the guys they are meeting, there is still danger. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before adulthood.” While only four percent of youth report being asked to meet in real life, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported in 2006 that 73 percent of youth asked to meet a solicitor offline did so. 80% of online predators eventually told their victims or would-be victims about their intentions, and only 5% concealed the fact that they were adults. The majority of victims are 13- to 15-years-old — which makes this video incredibly appropriate.
The fact is that children and young teens seeking out friends of any age online can be extremely dangerous, as this video shows. Watch it below, share it with your friends, and remember that no one is truly safe when transitioning interpersonal relationships from the digital realm to the real world. There are a lot of Josh Duggars in the world, and it is our job as parents to protect against them.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jMhMVEjEQg&w=560&h=315]
Featured Image via YouTube