By Dr. Free N. Hess
WARNING: There are graphic photos following this article. They are included so that parents can become aware of what our children are viewing and experiencing on the social media apps they are using. All photos included have been taken by me directly from within the many apps I research for PediMom. All photos are taken from public accounts that our children have access to and they are included solely to educate the public, mainly parents, about what our children are being exposed to.
I am angry.
For about 6 months now I’ve been researching many of the apps that are most popular with our children: Snapchat, Instagram, LiveMe, TikTok, YouNow, Whisper, Twitch, Roblox, and plenty of others. I register for them using the youngest age allowed for each individual platform (usually 13 years old, but sometimes younger). I then use these apps in the same way our children use them, so I get to see what they see and hear what they hear. I watch them.
I am angry.
I watch as young girls are approached by anonymous predators asking them to perform sexually explicit acts live on camera for anyone from anywhere in the world to see.
I watch as these predators offer likes, virtual gifts (some of which can be exchanged for actual currency), and the “promise” of fame in exchange for photos, videos, or private chats with the intent to convince them to do even more.
I watch as these predators invite more of their disgusting “friends” into the live stream when they think they have a vulnerable child who will be easily convinced (i.e. tricked) into doing what they ask.
I watch as these predators ask the youngest of girls to dance seductively saying “you are such an amazing dancer” or to do handstands and cartwheels saying “you’re such a fantastic gymnast” hoping that their shirts will not stay in place giving them a peek at what is underneath.
I watch as these predators ask these girls to lift their shirts, stick their tongues out, pull down their pants, open their legs, touch themselves, or even to use the video controller they are holding while playing a game on a live stream as a vibrator…and these are the less explicit of the requests I see.
I watch as these predators use misspelled or alternate terms for these requests to avoid being flagged within the app. They know all sorts of tricks.
I watch as these children are bullied and insulted if they refuse to do as these predators request. They are called boring, chicken, loser, baby, ugly, fat, stupid, a waste of time because they are not willing to comply.
I watch as some of these girls do as they are asked because the attention, likes, increasing number of followers, and the desire to be noticed is too strong to resist.
I see the photos glorifying and promoting self-harm like cutting, burning, anorexia, and bulimia.
I see the posts encouraging our children to attempt suicide and I cringe when they give pointers on how to assure that they “complete” the act.
I watch as these people form underground societies with ever-changing hashtags so that they can continue to damage our children without being flagged or blocked by people like me who seek them out and attempt to have their account removed.
I am angry.
I report every inappropriate comment, user, photo, and video that I come across and I watch as nothing is done.
I try to type faster than the predators hoping these girls will heed my warnings and protect themselves and I watch as my comments are buried in the constant and overwhelming comments of those I’m trying to warn them about.
I email the app developers and I wait, and wait, and wait. Nothing.
I am angry.
You should be angry too.
The developers of these apps need to be doing more. They need to be held accountable for the dangerous and life-changing situations our children are placed in when using these apps.
We need to make them listen.
We need to be loud and clear that they must #ProtectOurKids.
And that #ParentsDemandAction.
Help me make them listen. Help me hold them accountable. Help me help our kids.
HELP ME START A MOVEMENT THAT THEY CAN’T IGNORE!!!
Post everywhere you can with the hashtags #ProtectOurKids and #ParentsDemandAction and tag as many of the apps as possible.
If we’re loud enough they will listen.
Our kids lives depend on it!
Use the arrows to scroll through the screenshots: