Teens Don’t Need an App for That

We have become so enamored of our phones and tablets that I sometimes wonder if we could function without them. Whatever we need, “there’s an app for that!” ‘Can’t keep track of appointments? Schedule Planner is there to help. ‘Forgot what to pick up from the supermarket? Just check Grocery List. And, oh, look at that cute guy over there; it sure would be nice to meet him… Hey, with Skout, you can flirt with and meet new people. And it’s safe–it says so right on the app’s homepage: “We go to great lengths to make sure our community is fun and safe.” So it must be true. Just don’t ask the three teens who were sexually assaulted as a result of meeting members of Skout’s “fun and safe community.”

Parents, do you know what’s on your kids’ phones? What apps do they have? What videos are they watching? Who are they texting–and who is texting them? You need to know all of this, because whatever and whoever is on that phone is coming into your house and is part of your child’s life. This is true especially if that “child” is a teenager because so many teens believe, almost by definition, that they can take care of themselves just fine without you butting in. Don’t buy into the argument that they have a “right to privacy” where electronic communication is concerned. Predators thrive on privacy–on seclusion and secrets. And they use Skout to find their next victims.

In Kentucky, a 15-year-old girl willingly met a “friend” she had been flirting with on Skout. He seemed like a great guy, and offered to take her to visit her boyfriend who lived out of town. Imagine her surprise, upon meeting him, to learn that he wasn’t really a teen, but a 37-year-old man. Imagine her terror when he raped her.

In California, a mom called the police to report that her 12-year-old daughter was missing. Using clues from the girl’s cell phone, police located her nearby, in the bedroom of a man twice her age–a man she’d met on Skout.

And in a park in Wisconsin, a 13-year-old boy was rescued from a 21-year-old man who had hit him up on Skout. The man was found performing sexual acts with the boy. 

Granted, Skout has temporarily taken its “teens app” offline to fix the dangerous security holes in its “fun and safe” program. But there are dozens of “flirting” apps available to anyone with a computer or a phone.  They should not be used by anyone under the age of 21. Proud users of Skout and other apps may take offense at this, claiming that ending their online flirting will cause undue pain and suffering to their social lives, not to mention the loss of friendships and “important” connections. My point is this: where kids/teens gather, predators of kids/teens also gather. At the ages of 12… 15… 18… there is so much more to be concerned with than electronically winking at someone they haven’t met. School and outside activities are the most vibrant social network available to them. And at least there, they can see the person they’re dealing with face-to-face.

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