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How Real is the Child Predator Danger Online?

This video has gone certifiably viral. In one day it has over 5 million views (by the time you read this it will most likely be over 6 million) – according to the Snapchat account of the person who made it, the video is getting over 500k hits/hour.

So what’s this video about? In short, it is about posing as a boy and seeing if they can lure underage girls out of their homes to meet them. The results are sadly what you fear most. The troubling part is that these girls seem to have involved and loving parents, and yet this still happens.

As I’ve researched materials related to “social media parenting” – a lot of the material out there seems to focus on how each specific technology leads to illicit relationships and how to block them out. In fact, many parents I’ve spoken to about their challenges with their adolescent kids always boils down to them asking me what the best blocking software is. They want to know if their kids should be allowed to use Snapchat, Periscope, and other new things they’ve never heard of.

The problem with this approach is that it ignores the underlying principles. Technology is simply a tool. In reality, what teens can do on Snapchat now isn’t significantly different from what kids my age were doing in the 90’s on AOL Instant Messenger or ICQ, or MSN messenger in the 00’s. Yes, them media is a bit richer, but the essence is the same.

The solution to the problem is no different than what it has always been. Constant communication with your children, and also warning them about the dangers of different situations – especially online. The conversation should not be dominated by fear. The overriding theme should be one of responsible usage.

With responsible usage though, does come an understanding of the changing technologies and platforms. It seems over time that the sheer shamelessness by which some of these things are now promoted is only getting worse. Tinder, for example, is famous for its swipe left and swipe right judgments about who you want to hook up with (click here to read our earlier article about Tinder and Muslim couples).

A recent (must read) Vanity Fair article – Tinder and the Dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse” – noted this developing trend about men online,

“One dimension of this is the impact it has on men’s psychology. When there is a surplus of women, or a perceived surplus of women, the whole mating system tends to shift towards short-term dating. Marriages become unstable. Divorces increase. Men don’t have to commit, so they pursue a short-term mating strategy. Men are making that shift, and women are forced to go along with it in order to mate at all.”

Don’t think Muslims are immune from this either. An Instagram account highlighting Muslim stories à la Humans of New York recently posted this:

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To understand the subtle changes in culture that have taken place, look no further than Tinder’s Twitter rant today against the Vanity Fair article. They say they’re simply helping to create meaningful relationships,

And in this outrageous tweet – change the world for the better,

So where do we go from here? We might be angry at these apps and companies, but we need to turn that energy into something more positive and focus on what is within our control. For dealing with teens especially this means:

1) Develop and maintain strong relationships.

Talk regularly and openly with your kids. Find out who they’re Snapchatting with. Find out what kind of comments people are typing in on their Periscope videos. This doesn’t mean you need to see and read every word, but be involved as a parent. If you think someone is a bad influence, explain why you think that.

2) Give your kids attention.

The troubling thing about this video is how quickly a guy is able to sweet talk a girl into meeting him. And before you say what about the guys – his next video is supposed to be covering exactly that. The video exposed though, the parents think one thing of their kid and the reality is something else.

For many families, the daily ritual has become the same. Kids get home, say 2 words, and then go up to their room to study. Parents are exhausted from work and other things, and don’t want to push too hard because the kids are studying. When they all go out to eat together and spend time as a family, they’re all on their own screens. Just today, as I write this article, I saw a family of 4 eating together. The mom, son, and daughter were all on their phones. And dad? He was on his iPad.

Time together has to have quality interaction, otherwise it is of no use. The sad reality is, most parents would rather stay glued to their phones than to have a meaningful (and perhaps uncomfortable) conversation with their kids. This has to change.

The Fiqh of Social Media in this regards is to understand these technologies and what they enable – and then to have meaningful conversations about how to use them appropriately. That may mean deciding not to use them at all – but let it be an educated (with shuradecision and not a decree.

What are your thoughts on the video? What lessons did you learn? What can the Fiqh of Social Media project provide for you that would be useful in this regards?

Leave a comment below.

Comments 1

  1. Fatima

    This is very scary, I have granddaughters that are very naive. They’ve been told of the dangers & shown. I think all parents with children should see this. Even parents are taking this for granted. Very sad

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