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Award-Winning Australian TV Star Madeleine West Exposes Chilling 60-Second Trick Predators Use to Lure Kids Online

Written by Madeleine West

 

From just one #firstdayofschool snap on social media, I can learn enough about your child to convince them to get into my car in less than 60 seconds.


Snapchat allows predators to locate kids. Pics posted, or sent by teens via messaging apps are being manipulated by deep fake AI apps and weaponised against them. Kids are coerced to share intimate images with online “friends” then extorted under threat of that image being released publicly.


This is the new Stranger Danger and it’s terrifying.


Early in my career I had a stalker. Weekly I’d receive packages of photos taken from inside my bedroom. The culprit was eventually found because they posted the photos from the same post office each Wednesday.


It took this deviant around 8 months to learn enough about me to victimise me. But, as I mentioned earlier, in this new era of online engagement it would take me less than 60 seconds. How?


On Instagram or Facebook tap in #firstdayofschool or #backtoschool to open 16.2 million, and 4.4 million posts respectively. Specifying a local school unlocks between 100 and 2000 entries. Tap on the smiling face of a pigtailed girl in her new school uniform and land on the public account of the poster. Hypothetically, her mother, and most of us use our real name in our social media handles so immediately I know where that girl goes to school and her mother’s name. Scrolling through her account, there’s that girl sitting in front of a Barbie cake with seven candles. #happybirthdaybaby! Posted June 12. Now I have her date of birth. There with a puppy in her arms: Meet our new #puppy #harvey. Now I know the name of her pet. Magnifying a post about a #schoolexcursion, the little nametag stuck to her uniform reveals her name is Helen. Keep scrolling. There she is at pony club. The insignia of the club in the background or tag @broadmeadowsponyclub alerts me to where Helen goes Wednesday afternoons.


Were I to approach that young girl at the school gate and inform her that I have to take her home, awareness around stranger danger would prompt her to hesitate, probably decline. But if I went up to that little girl and said: “Oh Helen, your mummy Nora just called, little Harvey got hit by a car so I’m taking you to pony club”, there’s every likelihood that she would get into my car. If she questioned who I was, I’d smile: “Of course you know me! I was at your birthday party with that amazing Barbie cake”. The sheer amount of insider knowledge accrued from just 60 seconds scrolling through a public social media account immediately transforms me from stranger to friend.


Welcome to the new real.


The internet IS a hunting ground. As parents, it is not enough to demand the Government and education department roll out more stringent controls.


As individuals, we have power over our device.


Privatise accounts, restrict access, create strong passwords with password managers, don’t post pics of your kids on public accounts, keep software up-to-date, know who follows you, and don’t share personal information. Listen to your instincts and be vigilant for red flags in your child’s behaviour. Most importantly, listen to them.


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