If you are a parent of a child who has access to apps, to the internet, please read this.
The following true story is quite disturbing. I am sharing the shocking details as I want to make sure all parents are made aware, are able to find out if their child is trapped in a similar dangerous and alarming situation.
So I can share all the details, I am keeping all names anonymous. I can vouch with 100% certainty that what I am about to share in fact did happen. The friend whose child it happened to showed me the deeply offensive content. For ease, I will call the child Peter.
Peter is a bright, thoughtful 16 year old who is always courteous and ready to help. He is performing very well academically and has a strong group of friends. Peter attends church and youth group, and is diligent with his daily devotion. He has plans of going to an ivy league college and one day becoming a surgeon. He doesn’t cuss, is nearly always honest, never causes a scene at a restaurant and mostly does all that his parents ask him to do.
Peter also loves gaming and spends a great deal of time playing the latest games online with his friends. Being a sociable boy, he also likes texting, and participates in a popular texting app for gamers called, ‘Discord’. In Discord, participants can text with each other, meet new people and often role-play scenarios that are similar to their favorite games. Then one day Peter meets ‘Jane’ (pseudonym) and tells Peter that she is 16 years old. Over the next month or so, Peter becomes infatuated with Jane, someone he has never met and only knows through Discord. He and Jane spend countless hours texting each other, expressing their love for each other.
Then Jane starts to test Peter’s loyalty, challenging him to stand up for her in other group chats. Jane uses crude cuss words to admonish Peter for not doing exactly what she expected. Infected by her language, he to starts to adopt the same crude language in their exchanges.
Eventually Jane suggests the two of them start a fantasy story where Peter plays a female, and Jane a male. The basic plot is that they are lovers battling against the world. Very quickly Jane’s male character initiates sexual contact. What follows is extremely explicit sexual encounters much too inappropriate to describe for my blog. What I will say is that the descriptions of the sexual acts are replete with vulgar terms and are degrading and shocking.
No sexually explicit images are shared, but a few of the images are of scantly clad females. All of the vulgar sexual content is communicated through text messages. I guess you could call it ‘fantasy sexting’. These fantasies grow in both the frequency and in deviancy.
As the months pass, Peter’s parents have no idea about the double life of their son. They do notice he has become more secretive with his iPhone as well as spending more and more time on it. When Peter is asked to put the device away to concentrate on chores, he becomes agitated and angry.
Then one day Peter’s dad surprises him by asking to see his iPhone. Peter’s dad comes across Discord and the conversations with Jane. In utter disbelief he confronts his son. Peter’s dad contacts a good friend who is involved in law enforcement with particular experience in cyber crimes. As dad shares what he has found, his friend confirms his fear that ‘Jane’ is most likely a pedophile.
All the conversations leading up the sexual fantasies and beyond are what is called, ‘grooming’. Which is,
Grooming is developed in three phases: access, entrapment and approach. Access and approach are relatively simple: they respectively involve contacting a child, saying “hi ur cute” for example, and making the necessary arrangements to meet the child offline. Entrapment, however, is a much more complex phase where information is requested and provided to fulfil four grooming objectives: building trust with the child; isolating them and finding out how isolated they already are; testing the child’s willingness to comply with the groomer’s intentions; and obtaining sexual gratification.http://theconversation.com/how-paedophiles-speak-to-children-online-66243
Once we identified these phases, their objectives, and how groomers use specific language techniques to achieve them, we found that there are several “myths” society believes about grooming that are not entirely true.
For example, groomers rely on persuasion, not coercion. Our figures showed that gaining the trust of the youngster is of paramount importance for groomers, and they devote the highest amount of words and therefore time – around 45% – to it.
All groomers in our study were skilled and sophisticated communicators, interacting with their targeted child as if they cared about him/her, making them feel special. They complimented the children regularly on a range of topics, rather than only on sexually-oriented ones. Because of this, many of their interactions with children can go undetected by existing protection software.
What to do to protect your child
- Make sure you have good, open communication with your children
- Check their devices often. If you don’t understand how the platform works, learn
- Limit how often they can use their device. Be aware that predators can continue contact across a range of devices including Nintendo Wii, Instagram, as well as texting apps such as Discord. Most will avoid regular texting and favor apps.
- Make a rule that your child can only talk online with someone they know. Zero contact with strangers, unless you the parent give them permission.
- Make clear which conversations are appropriate and which aren’t. One of the mistakes parents make is to continue to treat their teenager like a child. Believe me, chances are they understand sex, sexual acts and deviant sexual acts. There is no need to dress it up, be specific, not shy, show them where the line is.
- If you do discover a predator, in the U.S, report it to the FBI, Internet Crime Complaint Center (https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx)
- Most importantly, don’t ever assume your child would never get involved in such behavior. The predators are experts at grooming and even the most intelligent, well intentioned child can get sucked in. As was the case with Peter.
Now, a request. Please share this blog post with as many people as possible. Share it to Facebook, through email, whatever works for you. I want to make sure that every parent is reminded about the very real dangers lurking online.