You’ve probably signed onto Facebook at least once in the day if you have a phone or access to a computer. In fact, there are over 2.13 billion people actively using Facebook every month. So, if you’re not on your computer, then you’re probably on your phone since over 1.15 billion mobile phone users log into Facebook every day. Over 300 million pictures get uploaded daily and this could lead to a serious issue that you might not foresee.
Five new Facebook profiles are made every second, so, getting a couple of friend requests during the week shouldn’t be shocking. Most of the time, Facebook lets you know that you share a mutual friend with these strangers who have just popped into your friend request queue, which puts your mind at ease. But other times the friend requests are from people you used to know who have tracked you down on Facebook. So now the questions remains, what are you going to do? And that’s a really great question.
You assume that sharing photos and other info with your Facebook “friends” will remain within your circle. But one mother would like to warn everyone that all this extra sharing could seriously put you as well as those you love in jeopardy with every status update, photo, or video. You might assume that you’re not in danger and nothing would happen to you, but you’ll think about your kids when you hear about her cautionary tale.
This mother wrote: “So, you just checked your Facebook and a random guy has sent you a friend request. you don’t know him, but his profile picture is kind of cute, so you accept him. It’s your baby girls first day of school, you are overwhelmed with joy, and she looks so cute in her uniform that you have to take a picture of her and post it to Facebook to share with your ‘friends’ and family. You’re so excited that you even ‘Check in’ to her school on Facebook saying: ‘I can’t believe how big she’s gotten. Time sure flies. One proud momma/daddy right here’.”
What you didn’t know was that the hot guy whose friend request you accepted during the week has saved the photo and sent it to 60 grown men all over the world with the caption: “American Female. Age 5. Blonde Hair. Green Eyes. $5,000-.” Congrats! You’ve just sent your child’s photo to a predator and provided him with your kid’s name and the name of her school. So, now it’s time to pick your kid up at school, but she’s not where she’s supposed to be.
You can’t fathom the thought that your daughter was sold to a 43-year-old kidnapper before you even drove away from her school that morning, and now she’s got a bag over her head and she’s crying and she’s terrified as she gets taken to Mexico because some stranger has abducted her from school. She doesn’t know where she’s headed to or what will happen to her when she gets there. Meanwhile, it’s 3:00 p.m. and you’re wondering where she is. It’s best to just stop accepting friend requests from total strangers and stop sharing everything about you and your family on Facebook.
Cyndi Mavita’s Facebook post was shared over 739,000 times, so others could warn Facebook users of the threat to their families when they get friend requests from total strangers. Mavita’s warning proves that female users are often enticed by a predator who looks cute, so they accept the request without thinking of the well-being of their kids. Ultimately, it puts fear into the minds of women who fear they might be at risk on Facebook and may have accidentally put their kids in danger too. But is it real?
It’s vital that we remain cautious about what we post online, but you shouldn’t get too scared either. Kidnappers and predators don’t waste time searching for potential victims online and they don’t need Facebook to tell them where to find children to abduct. If and when they decide to kidnap a kid, they’ll simply sit and wait for a child to walk out of school and grab them. The concept of looking for a Facebook photo among millions would waste precious time.
Most schools have implemented security measures and won’t allow a random person to take a child out of school, unless their names are on a list of authorized family members or guardians. If you’re a mom or dad who asked a friend to pick your child up from school, you know that this is true. Schools are more careful about protecting kids and guards are also keeping an eye out to see where each kid heads to. In fact, the biggest threat is a lot closer than you imagined.
Let’s forget about Facebook for a moment. According to the National Center for Missing Children, most abductions are done by relatives, followed by acquaintances. But complete strangers happen to provide the lowest numbers involving kidnappings. This means that the chances of a Facebook stranger going after your kid, stalking them, and eventually kidnapping them would be minimal compared to the threat your child faces by those you consider friends and family. But believe it or not, this can happen…
Tim LeBlanc realized that his 12-year-old daughter wasn’t in bed when he went to check on her at 2 am. What’s worse, her window was left open. Obviously, he panicked, and both he and his older son started searching the entire neighborhood to find the missing child. Fortunately, they got her mere moments before the girl was about to get into a stranger’s truck. But the big question was, how did the girl even know this guy?
LeBlanc forced the man out of the truck and shoved him to the ground. Then he took a photo of the driver’s face and kept him there until cops arrived. He later learned that the man used a fake profile online so he could pretend to be a 15-year-old boy. He had been sending LeBlanc’s daughter photos, talking in an inappropriate way to her, and convincing her to meet him face to face. The girl intended to meet the driver who was identified as Scott Stilwell after he assured her he’d give her gifts like a necklace, a jacket, and a hat.
Once she said yes, Stilwell drove to the girl’s house, which took over an hour. Fortunately, Stilwell was apprehended before he could abduct the girl, or things could have been a lot worse. Stilwell faced charges of meeting up with a minor with the intent to commit a lewd act and sending harmful or inappropriate content to a child. But let’s not forget that this all started with messages being sent using social media.
LeBlanc has forbidden his daughter from using social media after this incident happened, and has sent a warning to other parents so they could be aware of this growing threat. Of course, this doesn’t mean every parent should go into panic mode. It’s just important to take measures to prevent this. To do this, you have to keep the line of communication open with your kids and teach them about the dangers. Remind them not to share personal info with a stranger. So, if a profile only asks for your first name, then you should fill in your last name in the optional field too.
In the privacy setting, make sure to always select the highest privacy level. Most social sites let you choose from “visible to everyone,” to “visible to friends of friends,” or even “visible to friends only.” Also, remind your kids and yourself to never talk to strangers. Don’t assume that because you or they are online that it’s safe because clearly, the danger is real whether it’s face to face or on social media.