Late last week, the following post popped up in my Facebook feed. It’s an Instagram warning shared by a friend who lives in our community—she shared it from another mom (whom I do not know) who also lives in my general local area. The post, which I’ll include below, showed a picture of a young teen who bears a striking resemblance to a younger Justin Bieber, with a warning that he was most likely an adult (and at least claimed to be a high school graduate) and that he had been friending and messaging a bunch of 6th grade girls locally, and asking some cheerleaders to meet him at a local spot that very day.
Photo: Renee Gabbard, Facebook
PARENTS PLEASE READ!!!!!!Sharing this Email from our Cheer Coach:
**PLEASE SHARE and Check Instagram Accounts and all other Social Media**
Thanks You Springboro Police for Watching Out Today!
I wanted to bring to your attention a concern with a person using the name Steve Matthews on Instagram. His user name is @awesomedude121256 and he has been messaging quite a few girls from 6th grade using Instagram messaging. He has asked them for their phone number and has also requested that they meet him at the K TODAY after school. Other concerns with him are he is following over 500 people and they are Springboro cheerleaders and cheerleaders from other schools. The only guys he is following are famous actors and athletes.
He is sending messages to girls and saying the EXACT same thing to each of them and sending the attached picture as to who he is. On his profile it also says he has graduated from high school in North Carolina. I am very concerned about this person because the picture that he is sending is a perfect picture to send to young girls and certainly doesn’t look like someone who has graduated high school. Also, I am super concerned about the 121256 at the end of his username, just reminds me of a birthdate and that would make him 59.
The police have been notified and will be on patrol at the K today after school and are looking into this matter. The police have suggested that the girls NOT go to the K today after school and said they understand it is obviously our choice but they would discourage it.
If your daughter has Instagram, please check it to see if she is being followed by @awesomedude121256
Internet predators are obviously are a true threat to our children. In today’s world with everything that is going on, a person seeking out a lot of young girls and asking them to meet and luring them in with a fake picture is never a good situation.
Obviously, this is scary stuff. The line at the end of the post is very correct. “Internet predators are obviously a true threat to our children.”
But, moms and dads? We CAN take away some of that threat. I’m not trying to be a judgey jackwagon, but do our 6th graders really NEED to be on Instagram?
The answer to that question for my family is “no.” I do not think we need to open 11 and 12 year olds up to this particular danger.
I understand that the answer to that question for your family may very well be “yes.”
I also realize that it is basically the norm for 6th graders to have Instagram accounts…but should it be? My main concern is that we are giving our kids responsibility to use this and other app technology safely…responsibility that they are not yet mature enough to handle. And I’m pretty sure the truth is, internet predators LOVE IT when we give our kids access to social media before they are old enough to use it responsibly.
I don’t have a 6th grader…but I do have a 7th grader. He DOES have a Kindle, that he could have Instagram on if we let him (he doesn’t have a phone yet). But we don’t let him, even though many of his friends have it, even though all his friends keep their accounts “private”—because we don’t think it’s necessary to give this responsibility to him yet. He’s a rule-follower, he’s a good kid…but he’s 12. He doesn’t need the weight of determining whether the tween who just requested to follow him and is sending him messages is actually a tween or a total grown-up skeezy, evil predator. And I don’t need the worry. I don’t need to go through his account every couple of days. I don’t need to try and figure out if he’s got something hidden that I can’t see. There’s just no NEED for it. Not now. Maybe when he’s more mature…but not. NOW. He’s 12, and last year in 6th grade, he was 11.
Do our 6th graders NEED to be on Instagram?
I don’t think so. But if you’ve made that decision for your child, I beg you to back it up with hyper-vigilance, moms and dads. You really, really, really CANNOT be too careful.
Ask this mom whose 12-year-old got a secret Kik account, as she’s asked to share her daughter’s story with as many parents as possible.
Let your kids be kids for awhile longer, moms and dads. I think that is the path of least regret.