A father and policeman named Brad Summer is sharing a chilling experience his 7-year-old daughter had while using the popular application Musical.ly. It seems a child predator was able to message her through the program, and exposed her to a completely inappropriate and disgusting exchange. Now this dad has taken to Facebook to warn other parents and share screen shots from the sickening messages between the pedophile and his daughter.
"Today we went through something that I feel needs to be shared," Summer began his important post. "Our daughter has an app that she has been using with some friends and family members that went from fun to making me furious. The name of this app is called musical.ly.." He went on to say how proud he is of his daughter and that he hopes by sharing what happened to her, he can warn other families.
But rather than trying to explain what took place, Summer shares the actual screen shots from the sickening messages a child predator sent to his little girl.
Sure, it starts out innocently enough. But just wait.
If you're like me, your skin is crawling reading these disgusting messages from a person pretending to be 9 years old.
Summer goes on to write in his now-viral post, "Please, tell your kids to let you know if anyone ever asks something like this, let them know it's okay to tell you. It has helped us in this situation."
He also says, "I know many will blame us parents for this happening. But we never thought like predators and I guess we were naive in thinking that our daughter was safe on what we thought to be a kid-friendly app. We have learned the hard way. I ask that you not judge us (many still will) but let our experience teach us all."
The horrified father shared that the police were contacted in an effort to track this sick person down, and later posted this update: "The detective has found the IP address of this person and has submitted a supeona [sic] to [Musical.ly] to freeze all records pertaining to this person (s). They are continuing to make progress!"
In the meantime, I love how Summer blasted this sicko with a message of his own.
Summer also clarified, "Our daughter does not have a phone of her own. [Musical.ly] was on one of our phones for use when we were around. She used this app to connect with her cousins and make goofy duets of songs together. We have accepted friends of theirs and our daughter believed this was another one. I never thought of someone pretending to be 9 to gain access to my child. We live and learn and I continue to do so everyday [sic] as a parent."
Still, people judged the policeman and his wife, which really makes me mad. Like anyone is a perfect parent? And who is able to keep tabs on every single thing their kids interfaces with at every second? Let's stop judging and learn from this brave family's experience. Summer said he didn't care about the judgers, as long as he got his message out. "My mission is to spread awareness, not to please everybody," he says. "We as parents need to come together and share stories like this. We need to help each other! The only way to combat it is to bring awareness and be open about it—hiding this from others will only let those predators win."
Thank you to Summer for raising awareness about a new type of child predator that we didn't have to worry about when we were kids, um, because we didn't have apps like Musical.ly. But predators can access our kids in person, too. Please check out these important tips for protecting your child here. Most importantly, it seems having an open dialogue with your children, and always knowing who they are coming in contact with, is key.
And keep in mind that many apps have age restrictions—Musical.ly, for instance, sets its usage for people 13 and up. (Even though we all know that it's mostly the 13-and-under crowd who is using it!) "How many people over the age of 13 actually lip sync videos to today's top hits?" Summer says. "Most of the users on there are under the age of 13. By putting a rating of this age on the app it is purely for coverage and liability. It's a tough fight to get things changed. We just need to all work together."
We can start by being alert to online predators. For me, not allowing my children to have their own social media accounts until they are much older is one way to control who can message them. Still, in Summer's case, this didn't stop the contact from happening. The best we can do is know what apps our kids are using, and teach them about what is appropriate to share online, as well as what is inappropriate for someone to be saying or sending them. That includes photos, not just comments.
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It's also important to stay up to date on online trends like what hashtags your kids are using may secretly mean. And above all, don't be afraid to monitor what your child is doing online, because your vigilance may just end up protecting them from danger!