Posts Tagged ‘predator’

Teens Don’t Need an App for That

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

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.

How Child Molesters Fool Parents

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Lawyer: When did you first think that the Accused might be a child predator?

Police Officer on Witness Stand: When I began investigating the crime. Everyone who knew him said, “No, couldn’t be! Not him! He loves kids! He would never hurt a child!” When so many people think that a particular person could never have done this kind of a crime, that tells me something could be very wrong.

Lawyer: Why is that?

Police Officer: Because that’s how predators get away with their crimes. They don’t just groom the child. They train everyone around them to trust them, to believe they’re innocent. They groom their whole environment.


Have you ever seen a news report about the arrest of a child molester? ‘Ever notice that the folks around that individual are shocked to find such evil in their midst? Family members and neighbors tell the reporter, “I just can’t believe it. He’s such a great guy!”

What about, “I knew something was wrong about him. I always tell my kids to stay away from his house!” No one says that. Why not?

Because they’ve been groomed to believe the predator is a great guy. By whom? The “great guy” himself. Those who prey on children can be quite good at appearing kind, lovable, and gentle. They are experts at fooling those around them–not just children, but adults as well. They have to be, because access to the child is often through that child’s parent/guardian.

If mom trusts them to babysit from time to time, they gain access to little Madison. If dad believes they’re just taking the boys on the team to a hockey game, they gain a clear path to young Zachary.

And why wouldn’t a parent trust them? After all, they’re teachers, coaches, scout leaders, church youth ministers, even pediatricians! Good, honest people go into these professions/activities because they care about kids and want to help them succeed in life. But dangerous, lying predators go into these professions/activities so they can have a continuous supply of children.

No parent wants to think anyone in the vicinity of their precious baby is a child molester. They don’t want to believe someone they know actually harbors thoughts of committing horrible acts against their child. Predators understand this and use it to their advantage. One man confessed to police that he simply “allowed the parents to believe what they wanted to–that I would never harm their little girl.”

So what can you do? Watch your child. If he or she behaves differently around a particular adult, find out what’s behind that.

And trust yourself. Don’t let the practiced charm of a molester fool you. If you get any kind of “funny feeling” from the coach, the scout leader, the neighbor across the street, accept that you’re on to something. And step between the Bad Guy and your child.

Predators Use Games to Grab Your Kids

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Fiverr Color Image 1 Hand Out of TV Screen RESIZE

Predators are playing your Wii… in your house… to get your child.

At a Child Safety Seminar the other day, an agent from the North Carolina Department of Justice told me that the newest way child predators are finding victims is through video games. XBox… Wii… Nintendo DS…. They like smart phones and tablets, too. In fact, whatever the latest technology,the  Bad Guys have figured out how to work it to their twisted advantage.

Can’t be, you say! My child is playing in the safety of our living room; I can see him/her with my own eyes! Yes. But the game in their hands connects to the internet. Predators connect to the internet to find kids–and they know where kids gather. As the DOJ officer explained, it’s easy for an abductor or sex predator to make contact with young, innocent players by chatting and sending messages about the game they’re playing. Kids are flattered that someone they don’t even know wants to talk to them about their strategy, technique, and scores.

Once initial contact is established, luring a victim out of parents’ protective reach is simple. In fact, for these guys, the whole process is virtually as easy as reaching through the tv screen to snatch their next victim.

It’s an internet-enabled world, and kids are taught from preschool onward how to operate a computer. So, throwing the Wii out the window and forbidding our kids to touch a keyboard is not the answer. Then what can we do to keep our kids safe? Talk to them! Tell them never to put their personal information out onto the ‘net. No one needs to know their real name, age, where they live, what grade they’re in, what school they go to… even what sports they like or that their pet hamster’s name is Scooter. The Bad Guys might try to trick them into revealing important facts with questions like, “What kind of job does your mom or dad have?” Make sure kids know that any attempt by another “gamer” to make contact could be dangerous. If it happens, they should simply stop playing and go get a parent. The connection should be immediately ended, and the contact reported to police.

Yesterday it was desktops and laptops. Today, it’s smart phones, iPads and games. Tomorrow, it will be… who knows what? Doesn’t matter. The rule is always the same: Don’t give your personal info to anyone over any form of technology. Just as legend says vampires cannot enter your home unless you invite them in, predators can’t get to your kids unless they are allowed to. By repeatedly stressing that we don’t give out any personal info over computer/phone/gaming systems, etc., you keep the Bad Guys from getting in.



What’s in a Name? Too Much Information

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Heading to my gate in the Delta terminal the other day, I found myself following a family of four. Mom and Dad led the way; behind them were two young boys, Nathan and Daniel. How do I know their names? Because they were emblazoned in big, bold letters across the rolling backpack each little guy was pulling. You’ve probably seen these things. They look like this: http://www.personalizationmall.com/cat_image/600/8999-8819.jpg

Nathan and Daniel seemed to love their personalized luggage. I, however, could not share their enthusiasm. While their parents sat, one reading the newspaper and the other checking messages, the boys stood at the window, watching planes take off. If I were of a nature to want to harm children rather than protect them, how easy would it have been to go up to them and say, “Hey, Nathan! Daniel! I didn’t expect to see you guys here!” Pretending that I know them makes them think I’m not a “stranger,” therefore, not a Bad Guy.

I could go on with my ruse: “Remember me? I’m a friend of your folks’. I met you guys at school a few months back. My little boy is in Nathan’s class.” Children are generally taught not to question adults, and while they might be embarrassed that they don’t remember who “I” am, they won’t reveal this. They’ll just accept my word as the truth.

So, when I continue, “Hey! Can you guys come to that little shop and help me pick out some candy for the plane ride? I’m really hungry, but I don’t know what’s good. And I’ll bet you two are experts when it comes to candy!” they’ll come along willingly.

As a child molester, kidnapper, or worse, I’ve just gotten a bonus–two kids for the price of one! What made it so easy? I knew their names. And the craziest part of the whole thing? Without realizing it, their parents are the ones who told me.

Labeling your child’s tee shirt with their first name, their backpack with a nickname, or a team jersey with their last name is unnecessary and dangerous. It gives personal information about them to everyone who reads it–information that those who don’t know them should not be privy to. Why take the chance with your child’s safety?

“It’s So Great!”

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Upon finishing my most recent RAD Women’s Self-Defense class, I asked the participants what they thought. Had they gotten what they wanted from the class? Did they feel safer going out into the world? They responded that, yes, they had learned new ways of protecting themselves, and if they ever found themselves in a dangerous situation, they would be ready to do what they had to do.

My youngest student, a young woman of 17, said to me, “You know what’s really cool? It’s so great to find out what you can do!” During the class, she found out that she had not only the will, but the power and the ability to take down a male attacker much taller and heavier than herself, and to render him incapable of continuing his assault. She found out that, if she ever needs to, she can and defend herself successfully. She can fight for her life and win.

That knowledge alone makes her safer as she goes about her life. Why? Because muggers, rapists, and thugs of all kinds are experts at body language. They can spot a potential target from across a parking lot, or down a busy street. The person who’s looking down at their feet, who’s thinking, “Don’t anyone look at me; I don’t want any trouble,” is going to pull their attention. The one busily chatting on her cell phone, telling herself that it will keep her safe, is going to have him shaking his head and chuckling before he slips quietly behind her and grabs her. (And what will her friend on the other end of the phone do to “help” her at that point? Tell the police that he heard her scream and drop the phone.)

Then there’s the RAD woman who strides to her destination with purpose, looking at what’s happening around her. The one who’s thinking, “What if someone came from over there? What tools do I have available to fight with right now?” He’s going to stay away from that one–too much trouble. She’d see him coming and be able to provide the police with a description. She also might be ready to counter his best take-down move. He’d lose the element of surprise. If he can’t sneak up on her so she’s paralyzed with shock and fear, she’s liable to start yelling and attract attention. And that’s definitely not what he wants. Better to find a easy victim and leave the RAD chick alone.

The Toy Department Is NOT a Babysitter

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Taking young kids shopping with you can be… difficult, shall we say? They want to stop and look at something when you’re in a hurry, and they’re in a hurry when you’ve stopped to look at something. They get hungry at inopportune times, and urgently need a restroom when the store may not even have one. Then, of course, there’s the fact that they tend to want everything they see!

A neighbor of mine copes with the situation this way: “When my husband isn’t home to watch them and I have to bring them with me, I send them to the toy department. It keeps them happy and lets me do what I have to do. Then, I swing by and scoop them up, and we’re done!”

I probably turned pale when I heard of this harried, but well-meaning, mom using the toy department as a babysitter. I explained to her that her precious, albeit bouncy, little tykes were safest when they were under her direct supervision. They could get lost, hurt, or, heaven forbid, taken while she was elsewhere in the store, picking up milk or trying on a shirt.

She maintained that she was never away from them long enough for anything bad to happen–and besides, there were other adults in the area. One of them would surely step in if help was needed.

Yes, that would be great. Except, here’s some information about one of those “other adults in the area” while kids are looking at toys: He’s a registered sex offender. He enjoys watching little kids play. And he was arrested this past weekend in the toy department of a Wal-Mart in Virginia, not just for doing that, but for exposing himself and masturbating while he did it.

Parents, your children are safest when they’re with you. As tempting as it may be to leave them in a public place “just for a few minutes” so you can get some things done, it’s not worth the risk. Places that are fun and interesting for kids can also be fun and interesting for perverts and predators because of those kids. Don’t give them the chance to hurt your children.

A Child’s First Weapon

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

In the news today, an 83-year-old man was arrested for groping an 8-year-old child. He went through mug shots, prints, jail time, the whole bit. Now he has a police record. This was his first arrest. ‘Think this was his first time molesting a kid? Not a chance. Sexual abuse of children is a serial crime; perpetrators do it over and over throughout their lives. In fact, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the typical molester abuses 30-60 kids before he’s ever arrested, and as many as 380 in his lifetime. 380 children. Groped, molested, and/or raped. It’s mind-boggling.

The good news in all of this? Parents are teaching their kids to fight back. Not necessarily to punch the sex offender in the face, which could lead to immediate and even more dangerous consequences for a child alone with an unbalanced adult. But to use the first weapon available to them–their voice. Kids are being taught to tell! And they’re doing it, and their parents are taking action!

What are they saying? To the predator, they’re saying, “Stop! Don’t touch me!”  To their parents, teachers, and counselors, they’re saying, “Mom, Mr. Owens put his hand on my chest,” or “Mr. James touched my rear,” or “Ms. Linwood was doing something weird to my arm, and I didn’t like it.”

We’ve all heard stories, maybe even know some people who were abused as kids. Some readers here were victims themselves. Maybe they told their parents. Most likely, they didn’t. Some were taught that “respecting their elders” included allowing themselves to be hurt by adults. Others were afraid, believing the predator who told them, “Your folks will be mad at you if they find out,” or “If you tell what happened, we’ll both go to jail.” Still others tried to tell, but no one believed them: “What a terrible thing to say! Shame on you!” or “Mr. Smith would never do such a thing! Are you looking for attention??”

What police, psychologists, and others who work with child predators have learned between then and now is that

  1. Kids rarely make up stories about being molested. So, if a child tells you that someone touched them in the wrong way, it’s most likely true.
  2. Abusers can be male or female, in the city, the suburbs, or the countryside, young, old, or in-between.
  3. Child molesters are charming, friendly… and manipulators of the highest order. They will seem to you to be the nicest, warmest, safest people around. They’re very good at what they do–they made their victims feel safe long enough to molest them. They are wolves who will smile at you and try to trick you into accepting the word of a criminal, and not believing your own child.

So, if your child comes to you and confides that someone has molested them, know that it’s not your child’s fault. And then, for their sake, act. Call in the pros, the police. Let them do their jobs. Continue to love and parent your child, and give them what they need. Your teaching has shown them that they’re special and valuable, and that no one has the right to hurt them. And it has shown them the importance of using their voice, their first weapon, to defend themselves and stop the Bad Guy.





Fight Like a Kid!

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

‘Ever been to Myrtle Beach, SC? Great spot for a family get-away–golf, shows, shopping, and of course, the beach. Lots of “fun in the sun.” And a good place to kidnap a child?

Ask 4-year-old Josie. Someone tried to abduct her right off a Myrtle Beach sidewalk, on a bright, sunny afternoon, with her family just inches away from her. The kidnapper glided up quietly behind her in his car, and simply reached out the driver’s side window and scooped her up. She kicked and screamed as he pulled her inside.

Her 8-year-old brother, Nathan, saw the whole thing and ran to help her. He fought against the abductor, yelling, punching, kicking, and biting–anything he could think of to free his sister. The predator stayed inside his car, holding onto the girl’s feet. Nathan pulled back. He never thought of giving up.

“I did everything I could to get her back out of the car,” Nathan said. He even scratched the man’s arms, hoping to get bits of the Bad Guy’s skin under his fingernails. (“For DNA!” he said. Nathan learned something from watching crime shows on TV.)

Finally, the predator let go. Josie flew into her brother’s arms and they both landed on the ground. The Bad Guy sped away.

That’s how you fight evil–with everything you’ve got. Anything less would not have saved little Josie. If only every kid were prepared to defend themselves like that! Unfortunately, very few are. Most children, on finding themselves in a position of imminent danger, don’t know what to do. They become confused and terrified. And when a child is afraid, they shut down and give up. And right then, the Bad Guy has won.

We need to teach our children that, while there are some bad people in the world, no one has the right to hurt them. When they really believe this, they don’t react to endangerment with paralyzing fear, but with righteous anger: “How dare you hurt me??” They feel empowered to do whatever is necessary–kick, punch, hit, scratch, and yell for help–to defend themselves or someone they love. Josie yelled and kicked at her attacker. Nathan pulled her from his grasp. This kind of determination is what we need to instill in our kids.

We can’t be with them to protect them every second of their lives. So they must know 2 things:

1) they are worth protecting, and

2) they can defend themselves

They don’t need a parent, teacher, coach, or other grown-up to rescue them. There may be no one around to help them if a Bad Guy strikes.

Give them the information they need to be able to fight back against an attacker. If you know about kids’ self-defense techniques, great. Teach them to your kids yourself. If not, get them into a good kids’ self-defense and safety class. Then, teach them never to give up, but to keep fighting because they they’re special, they’re important, and they’re loved. As long as they keep fighting, they’ve got a fighting chance.

She Did “Everything Right”

Monday, May 17th, 2010

A few days ago, I wrote about the attempted abduction of a woman in Chapel Hill, NC. The suspect grabbed her as she jogged along a busy street, at approximately 2 in the afternoon. Police investigators have reason to believe that the man charged in the crime may also be involved in other recent incidents, including the attempted kidnapping of two teenage girls and the severe beating of a woman still in Intensive Care.

The attacker had a shotgun and a baseball bat in his car, and a pack of condoms in his pocket. However, when asked by a reporter if women in the area should be worried, Lt. Kevin Gunter of the Chapel Hill Police Department said no: “This was a woman that was jogging in an area that is very well traveled with both pedestrians and vehicles, broad daylight. She absolutely did nothing wrong.”

No woman who has ever been or will be attacked does anything “wrong” to invite the attack. As a friend of mine said, “She could be sashaying naked through the woods at midnight! While not smart, it still doesn’t give anyone the right to attack her.” So, not doing anything wrong does not appear to be enough of a reassurance to women that they will stay safe.

Look at what the officer said: the victim was in a well-traveled area, with plenty of car and foot traffic. It was broad daylight. She was doing everything right. And look at what happened: she was grabbed by a man in front of several witnesses. He proceeded to drag her to his car, in which he had weapons. He is believed to have a history of violent crimes. If two bystanders hadn’t intervened in the kidnapping attempt, this jogger would likely have been raped and murdered by this man.

I think that’s more than enough grounds for women to be concerned–if not necessarily “worried”–for their safety. I know that the police see the worst of the worst when it comes to the evils that human beings can commit against one another. Perhaps Lt. Gunter believes all’s well that ends well, and with this man in custody for the time being, women need not worry about a threat to their well-being. My concern is that these women may not have paid attention to their safety before this happened–and then it happened. The very fact that things still happen, whether we’re prepared for them or not, seems reason enough to me to be prepared.

I’m not advocating living in fear, being afraid every time you go out, or burying your head in the sand when it comes to crime. I’m saying to get out there, take a self-defense class, and learn not only physical skills to use against an assault, but some new ideas on how to avoid being chosen as a target in the first place. Because, yeah, this guy is off the streets for now. But, what if someone else is waiting around the corner?

Too Busy to Be Safe?

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Several women have come up to me and said that they want to take my self-defense class. They live alone, they work odd hours, or their careers involve travel and they don’t always feel comfortable when they’re by themselves. I totally understand that feeling. It’s why I took the RAD course myself, and why I became an Instructor.

But, when I sit down with them to schedule a class, something changes: “Oh, I can’t make it that day; I’m going to visit my parents,” or “That would have worked, but I just booked something for that weekend,” or “I’m so busy this month and into next; can we try for the summer?”

My friends, we can try for any time you want. I will teach you any time you can be available. There’s just one thing. Yesterday afternoon, not far from here, in broad daylight and full view of everyone passing by, a guy grabbed a young woman right off the sidewalk.

He shot a stream of pepper spray into her eyes, and then proceeded to drag her to his car, which he’d parked in a nearby lot. Fortunately, two men driving by saw the woman struggling against the attacker, and quickly pulled into the parking lot. This probably saved her life. Caught in the act, he pushed her away and drove off. Police found his car a short time later; inside were a shotgun and a baseball bat. When they arrested him, they found condoms in his back pocket.

The case is still being investigated, but police have found no evidence that this man simply enjoys hunting, baseball, and the company of a lady. What they have found strong evidence of is a connection to the brutal beating of a woman still lying in intensive care in a local hospital. He’s also wanted for questioning in the attempted abduction of two teenage girls a few days ago.

Am I saying that, by taking my class, my friends will never be harmed? Or that, had they taken the course, the women in these events would have been able to fight off an attacker armed with pepper spray? No, I’m not saying that–but I am saying that taking a RAD Women’s class can make you safer. Yes, we teach techniques to block the strikes and break the hold of a assailant. But we also teach you how to reduce your risk of becoming a victim, what to look out for, and how best to react when or if something unexpected (and bad) happens.

I know you’re busy. But it’s about priorities. Do you want to make staying safe a priority? Or do you want to keep crossing your fingers and hoping that it won’t happen to you? Because I would bet that if 2 days ago, you had asked the 19-year-old woman walking down the street minding her own business if she thought she might be abducted in broad daylight, raped, and murdered, she would have said no, too.

Movie Scene Scarily Accurate

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Talented screen actor Stanley Tucci received an Academy Award nomination for his frighteningly accurate portrayal of neighbor George Harvey in the movie The Lovely Bones, about the murder of a young girl, and its effects on her family. If you haven’t seen the film, consider watching it. It’s well-made, suspenseful, and moving. And if you do decide to rent it, pay close attention to the scene in which Harvey lures his victim to her death. It may not be what you’d expect–and it could have been transcribed from real-life.

Scene opens: Susie Salmon walks home from school by herself. Chasing a windblown slip of paper across a cornfield, she encounters a neighbor who pretends to try to catch the paper for her.

“Ohh! I hope that wasn’t your homework!”

This is a red flag–a stranger trying to help her. Called “false teaming,” it’s a common way for rapists to gain the trust of their victims. The predator spots his target, then waits for an opportunity to “help” her in some way. He might offer to carry grocery bags or heavy packages, unlock a car door, or, as in this case, try to recover something that was dropped. He knows that girls and women have been trained to be “nice,” to respond with gratitude rather than with caution.

Harvey, meeting no resistance from Susie, continues with his plan:

“Oh, hey, you’re the Salmon girl, right? Remember me? I live right down the street in the green house–Mr. Harvey.”

He’s letting her know that he’s not a “stranger,” therefore not dangerous. He doesn’t mind telling her his name and where he lives; he knows she’ll never have the chance to tell anyone what he did to her.


“How are your folks doin’? Tell ’em I said hi.”

He even knows her parents–further evidence that he’s not a stranger. And everyone knows it’s strangers you have to watch out for, not neighbors who live “right down the street.”

Susie responds politely, looking wary but offering no resistance to his somehow-inappropriate chattiness and eagerness. His excitement increases as he sees that, even though she thinks something isn’t right, she would rather be polite than trust her gut.

“You’re the perfect person for me to run into!”

Moving ahead with his lure, he implies that he needs her help–she’s just the right person he needs! When she gives a half-hearted excuse for not wanting to go with him, he feigns disappointment:

“I just worked so hard on it… and I just got excited for someone to see it….”

He knows that her need to be polite and not hurt anyone’s feelings will work for him. Against her better judgment, she follows him. He coaxes her down the ladder and into his secret chamber.


Notice, parents and guardians of children:

  • He was someone she knew. He was not a “stranger.”
  • He never touched her to get her there. He didn’t jump out of the bushes and grab her, or tackle her from behind a parked car. He never even got close to her.
  • He was not dressed in a scary costume, complete with a dark mask and black clothes that signal “Bad Guy here!”
  • He did not speak roughly or meanly to her. He called her by name in a friendly manner, and asked about her family.
  • He asked for her help, making her feel important. Adults in need of assistance of any kind should seek help from other adults, never from children.
  • He played on her emotions, making her believe she hurt his feelings, and knowing she would try to “make it up to him.”

Yes, there are child abductions/murders perpetrated by strangers. But more often, they involve someone the child has seen before–a neighbor, a friend of mom’s or dad’s, the guy who works at the store you frequent. And the reason they happen is because these people aren’t strangers. Children tend to trust adults they’ve seen before because they don’t fit their idea of a scary, black-cloaked “stranger.” When an adult has a child’s trust, luring them is easy.





New App is False Security

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Have you seen the commercial Verizon is currently running? It’s for a new app they’re selling, called Family Locator. Verizon claims it’s “peace of mind at your fingertips.”

The ad shows a mom at the mall with her teen daughter. The mom appears concerned for the young girl’s safety as she turns, armed with her cell phone, and heads down the escalator with her friends. But, not to worry! Mom has peace of mind at her fingertips with the new Family Locator app. Just by touching a few buttons, GPS technology lets her dial into the precise location of the cell phone in her daughter’s hand. Mom can pinpoint the locations of other family members as well–and if any of them should need help, she can instantly call up driving directions to the exact spot highlighted on their phone.

Of course, issues can arise that won’t be serious enough to require the Family Locator: “Hello, Mom? Jenny isn’t feeling well. Can you come and get us?” Still, it can give you turn-by-turn directions to the food court if you really want them.

What’s deceptive about this ad–and this app–is that it’s not a family locator; it’s a phone locator. For an actual emergency of the kind the ad hints at, the odds of the daughter keeping her phone in her possession are low. In an abduction or assault, one of the first things her attacker will do is cut off her ability to call for help. He’s going to get rid of that phone quickly, whether it’s in her hand, her purse, or hanging from her belt. He’ll likely break it, or just throw it into a garbage can or across the parking lot. So, Mom is pinging her cell and thinking things are fine: “Ah, she’s still in the department store.” She doesn’t realize her daughter is in danger, because the cell phone is reporting its location, not the girl’s. Meanwhile, the daughter is trapped with a predator, and valuable search time is being lost.

Now, I’m not trying to “rat out” Verizon. I think they’re excellent cell phone providers. But my first concern is for keeping kids safe. And this app, while it has definite uses, cannot keep kids safe. That’s fine, except that it’s being advertised as if it can.

If you want greater peace of mind when your kids are out on their own, my best suggestion is to sign them up for a self-defense class that will teach them

  1. how to recognize tricks that predators use to lure kids every day
  2. how to get help quickly in a public place and
  3. how to physically defend themselves if they need to

This knowledge will serve them much better than a cell phone app.