Dear Parents: Get Snapchat off of your kids’ phones. Now. Don’t ask. Just do it. Let them hate you. That will pass.
Love, a priest who hears their sins.
— Father Dan Beeman (@inthelineofmel) July 21, 2018
Here’s what he’s getting at. Here’s a report from a Houston TV station back in May. Excerpts:
A FOX 11 investigation has found that pedophiles are using the popular live streaming app Live.Me to manipulate underage girls into performing sexual acts, reward them with virtual currency, and then post screen captures or recordings of the girls online to be sold and distributed as child porn.
Live.Me is a popular live streaming Chinese app that has been downloaded 96 million times. The app shares the users location, and allows users to search for who is streaming near them.
Live.Me’s website says the app is explicitly meant to be used by people over the age of thirteen, but FOX 11 found girls as young as seven or eight years old using the app.
FOX 11 monitored dozens of Live.Me streams, not staying long enough to see things get explicit, but what we found was horrifying.
Time and time again, the streams featured girls who appeared to be extremely underage, with pedophiles openly trying to manipulate the girls into performing sexual acts for them.
FOX 11 immediately brought the concerns to several experts, and showed them several of the live streams.
One of them was Erin Runnion. Her 5-year-old daughter Samantha was abducted and murdered in 2002, and she started the Joyful Child Foundation in Samantha’s memory.
“She went from danging to spreading her legs and putting her shirt up, she’s still in a bralette for heaven’s sake,” Runnion said as she viewed one of the disturbing live streams. “I don’t want any parent to have to suffer like I did, and I certainly don’t want any child to put themselves in a dangerous situation.”
FOX 11 also spoke with Dr. Lisa Strohman, a former FBI agent and current clinical psychologist. She’s now the director of the Digital Citizen Academy and Technology Wellness Center.
“I did homicidal pedophilia at the bureau, so I’ve seen a lot of really terrible things, but this terrifies me,” Dr. Strohman said. “For me, it’s like a prostitution platform, or turning into one.”
Computer forensics expert Chris Pavan tells FOX 11 some pedophiles are recording the live streams to sell as child porn.
“The screen captures are being recorded to their computers,” Pavan said. “They’ll edit it down, they’ll generate something that is viewable by pretty much anybody’s computer and then they upload it to a file sharing site where an individual who wants to consume it can download it and has to pay some money for that file.”
Sadly, it’s true. FOX 11 found multiple porn sites directing customers straight to live streams or webcam captures of underage girls on LiveMe and other similar apps.
The links advertise that the girls are “young jailbait” and that they were secretly recorded without their knowledge.
“It’s being distributed to hundreds, thousands of pedophiles out there who are paying for and downloading this material,” Pavan said.
“That could take a young, innocent 11-year-old from her dream of maybe growing up and being a doctor and now growing up and saying how much money can I make online in my bedroom dancing in sexualized positions for different people,” Dr. Strohman said.
And that’s why Runnion says it’s time for parents to wake up and get involved.
If you read the whole thing, you can see the report, from the Los Angeles Fox affiliate.
What more do you need to know, Mom and Dad. Get rid of the smartphone, now. If you cannot be persuaded to consider the emotional and spiritual health of your daughter, think of it this way: Twenty years from now, when your daughter has her college degree, and is getting ahead in her profession, how will you and she feel when some disgusting pedophile humiliates her by broadcasting a film of her sexually degrading herself when she was a teenager — or younger? What kind of blackmail opportunities are you giving these monsters because you are too cowardly to say “no” to your daughter (or son) when they demand this technology that they are too young to use responsibly?
After you take away the smartphone, what are you teaching your kids about social media, and their friends who use it? What’s to keep them from going to the home of a friend whose parents don’t care as much about their daughter, and performing these kinds of acts on livestreaming social media? Taking away the technology is not enough.
Here’s the point: Be your child’s parent, not their “best friend”!
I talk about this more in The Benedict Option. There can’t be compromise on this point. There just can’t be. Watch the Fox report to be slapped hard across the face with the stakes.
UPDATE: Reader Suburbanp comments:
I want to engage in a serious conversation about why it has to be “take the smart phone” away and not “strongly limit the apps on your child’s phone, regularly review it and talk with them directly about why some apps/sites etc are blocked.”
The blanket statement simply isn’t going to happen for most families, including ours. But the heavy monitoring— that one is possible and puts kids on the path to learning what these devices can do for ill or for good. Unless we’re all going to move to a commune and mom and Dad are giving up the smartphones too— kids will smell the hypocrisy is a second.
There are ways to keep kids off social media while still allowing them to read free library books on their phones. There are ways for them to play the same games their friends do without talking to strangers.
It’s harder in the short term then simply taking the iPad or phone away, but this is their world, like it or not. They have to learn to navigate it and without help from parents who care and love them, they never will.
I acknowledge- kids can (and should) lose the privilege of having one of these devices. Some kids more often than others. But I don’t understand the blanket fear of smartphones.
That’s a fair point, and I look forward to what other readers suggest. I admit that I go at this with hammer and tongs because I get really emotional about how willfully blind so many parents, especially Christian parents, are about this stuff. In conversation with a pastor just this past week, he mentioned the spiritual and moral complacency he observes today among church people, who don’t want to act in any way that inconveniences their desire to live like everybody else.
On this theme, a reader just e-mailed this Lifesite News piece about a lecture the Christian blogger Matt Walsh gave in a church. Excerpt:
After describing the martyrdom of a party of Egyptian Christian pilgrims by Islamic extremists, Walsh compared their heroism to the laziness of Christians in the USA.
“These Christians were willing to give up everything for Christ,” he said. “How many of us are willing to give up anything, let alone everything?”
“Most of the so-called believers in this country will lash out angrily is you so much as suggest that they give up watching certain TV shows or listening to certain music,” Walsh continued. “They’ll explode in fury if you urge them to change their lifestyles to any degree whatsoever.”
“And yet we think we possess the conviction and the faith to just give up our lives for Christ. Let’s face it: most of us would grovel and weep at the feet of our Muslim captors and recite whatever Koranic prayer they want us to recite.”
UPDATE: Reader Adamant responds:
‘I want to engage in a serious conversation about why it has to be “take the smart phone” away and not “strongly limit the apps on your child’s phone, regularly review it and talk with them directly about why some apps/sites etc are blocked.”
Serious conversation from someone who has worked for a wireless phone company in IT sales and architecture for 18 years, and breathes in this stuff every single day. Your average parent will fail at locking down a smartphone to only ‘approved’ use. Is your average family going to educate themselves on MDM (mobile device management) applications like VMWare, Mobileiron, or Meraki? Are you convinced that you’re going to stay ahead of your kids, and a large community of app developers on this stuff, most of whom know more about the subject matter, and all of whom are incentivized to beat you? Imagine for a moment the sheer economic potential these companies see in your children, by pushing ads and forming consumer habits at a very young age. Were you successful at doing this for cable tv or home internet?
If we’re being honest, the answer is that the percentage of parents who will be successful with this strategy is very low. Those that are successful I would ask: can you really afford the time spent reading technical bulletins and updating firmware instead of parenting your kids? I can’t, and I do this for a living.
Yes your kids will be ‘weird’ for not having a smartphone. This is a good thing!
Consider whose values you are honoring by giving a damn whether corporate America and their legions of fanbois and girls think you’re unduly countercultural.
We were all fine 15 years ago without them. Your kids will be fine a little longer without them.