Social media is pervasive throughout society, with significant research on the escalation of danger to children in the digital space. Although it may seem impossible to control the use of devices, apps, and social media by pre-teens and teens, it is imperative that parents take extra precautions to protect their children and families.
Consider one mother’s nightmare when she learned that her 16-year-old daughter’s photo and personal information were on the dark web in an advertisement “for the purpose of having her kidnapped.”
An article published in Atlanta News First on Aug. 31, 2023, recounts the horror the mother faced when the FBI knocked on her door to tell her that “a tipster, who lived all the way in England, called the anonymous FBI tip line to say this woman’s daughter was in danger.”
In the article, available here, the mother explained what she learned: “There were two pictures, and it was from our family vacation the year before…On the picture, on the ad, it said this ‘item’, as they called it, was put for sale. If they would purchase this item, which was my daughter, then they would tell where we lived, where she frequented, and that they knew everything about her.” She also told the news outlet that the predator “took the photos from their family’s Facebook page, which was set to a private account. He stole our personal pictures that we thought were safe.”
Also, the FBI released a public notice on September 12, 2023, that violent online groups are targeting children through threats, blackmail, and manipulation tactics “to control the victims into recording or live-streaming self-harm, sexually explicit acts, and/or suicide; The footage is then circulated among members to extort victims further and exert control over them.” The agency is urging the public to be cautious in their online activity. “Although seemingly innocuous when posted or shared, the images and videos can provide malicious actors an abundant supply of content to exploit for criminal activity.”
The warning here is to be aware of your family’s social media activities and your online presence and be especially cognizant of your children’s and grandchildren’s cyber footprint. Our digital footprints have opened the door to unknown dangers and unexpected harmful consequences.