As a parent its really scary when we let our children out in the world. Not many have good intentions and use the innocence of young people against them.
As children reach their teen years they become much more closed off from their parents. They focus more on developing their sense of identity within their peer groups, and that often means distancing themselves from their parents. But how do you know when privacy is taken too far?
Scott Jenkins is a loving father of two beautiful daughters to whom he would give the world. Scott slowly noticed that his daughter Haylee was becoming more isolated from him. “[S]he was becoming secretive and sneaky,” the concerned father shared on Scary Mommy. This may not seem like such strange behavior, but it was actually a sign of something much worse.
Scott routinely monitored his daughters’ online activity, as often as twice a week. While he found a few discrepancies – time lapses in conversations or deleted images – it didn’t seem like much of a problem. Luckily for Scott, his intuition was too strong to ignore.
One night, Scott had a bad feeling. With no apparent reason for needing to do so, he knew it was imperative that he check his daughter’s iPad immediately. What he found was shocking, heartbreaking, and downright nauseating.
Haylee had been messaging a 15-year-old boy named Bruce. Like many teens, Bruce enjoyed the excitement of meeting new people online. He brought Haylee into his virtual circles, where she began to meet other people through their online profiles. Haylee thought she was talking to other children, but she couldn’t have been more wrong.
As Scott was scanning Haylee’s iPad, he came across a scandalous picture. “The sexy pose set my red flag on fire,” the father explained. “So my digging turned into a manhunt, checking everything in all her accounts.” It might have seemed nosy to Haylee, but this hunt ended up saving her life.
Scott looked into the profiles of “boys” who were following his daughter on Instagram, and he found out through their secondary accounts that they were actually full-grown men. Scott had no choice but to turn to the police. He gave access to all of the family’s technology to the Cyber Task Force of the Portage Police Department. Seven months later, Scott received a call that chilled him to the bone.
“Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins, can you and your family please come to the police station as soon as possible?” That was the call that showed Scott how close he had been to losing his daughter forever.
The family learned that Bruce was inadvertently a part of an elaborate human trafficking scheme. “His was the first safe face that our children see,” a heartbroken Scott explained. “He was unknowingly luring young girls into his circle as prey for the men to pick and choose from. The circle of Bruce’s friends list reached the globe, and his over 2,000 followers were nothing more than a smorgasbord of young, unaware children whom these men were chatting with. Our children.”
This alarming story is a reality check for parents everywhere. It is imperative to keep a close eye on children’s online use and social media accounts. In the words of Scott, “It’s worth the upset it may cause your child[ren] to keep them safe.” If you do not feel comfortable monitoring your children’s online activity, seek other resources such as help from a friend or a professional you can trust. If Scott had not dug so deeply into Haylee’s social media, he may never have seen his daughter again.