When parents worry about children’s safety online, they usually worry about social networking websites, where internet predators are known to lurk and target kids. However, one dad recently shared a story about his young daughter’s alarming interaction with a stranger on a music app, and the messages should serve as a reminder to parents everywhere to discuss internet safety with their kids before it becomes an issue.
Earlier this month, Brad Summer shared screenshots of messages that were reportedly exchanged between his 7-year-old daughter and an internet predator. The exchange took place on the app Music.ly, a lip-syncing app that lets users record videos and share them with friends. Kids can remain on a private network of friends that they approve, but settings can also be opened up to the public.
According to Summer, his young daughter doesn’t have a phone of her own, but would use the app on his or his wife’s phone while they were around, creating videos and sharing them with her cousins on her private network. Recently, however, his daughter reportedly accepted a friend request, assuming it was from a known friend—and that’s when things went awry.
The user, who went by the name “Jessy,” first allegedly sent Summer’s daughter a message asking her age. After that, the person proceeded to ask for photos. Summer’s daughter responded by sending two smiling pictures. Soon after, however, “Jessy” asked the little girl for “pics without t-shirt” and instructed her to take new pictures in the bathroom.
“Don’t tell anyone,” the user reportedly wrote. “It’s secret between us only.”
Fortunately, Summer’s daughter told her father immediately, and he called the police right away. But he shared the incident on Facebook with the hope of raising awareness among other parents whose kids use the app, writing:
This post is meant as a warning call to others that let their children use this app. … My child came and told me and it didn’t get any further luckily. She followed what I taught her. I’m sure that others families aren’t so lucky. The world we live in needs focus on these types of things, say what you will.
Many people on social media quickly jumped to parent-shaming, saying Summer should have monitored his daughter’s internet use more closely. But instead of blaming, he cautioned parents to speak to children about internet safety: “Please, tell your kids to let you know if anyone ever asks something like this, let them know it’s okay to tell you,” he wrote.
While the messages exchanged were certainly disturbing to read, they’re an important reminder to talk to your children about the potential for dangerous situations whenever they use the internet. Parents can’t monitor their kids’ interactions 24/7, unfortunately—but they can create a safe space in which their kids feel like they can always confide in them. And for the sake of kids’ safety, that’s a conversation that should take place before an incident occurs, rather than afterward.