Smart phones, bad choices: Dealing with dangers on social media

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – More than 80 percent of kids use some sort of social media to connect with friends.  Most are using apps on cell phones, but experts say that could lead to dangers.

“I’m mostly on my phone when I get home from school,” said Virginia Beach’s Hannah Singer.

Singer is using apps most adults may have never even heard about. She uses them to keep up with friends, but she’s very aware there could be dangers lurking below her fingers.

“I think it’s  dangerous, but most high school people just think it is fun,” Singer added. “They just want to talk to people and they are bored so they just talk to random people, but I think it’s weird.”

When the internet first came out, parents told us to stay out of chat rooms. Now those chat rooms are in the palm of a hand, and apps could lead them right to strangers.

“They are dangerous,” said an undercover FBI agent.

Undercover FBI agents sat down with 10 On Your Side to talk about the growing trend. Every week they are seeing more and more cases of teens who end up victims, because they could end up talking with predators.

“It is very frustrating, especially when you try to tell the kids out there that there are these dangers, but they always think that they are smarter,” the agent added.

Two recent Virginia cases stand out. In January police arrested two Virginia Tech students and charged them with killing 13-year-old Nicole Lovell.  Officers say the suspects met the teen through popular messaging app called Kik.

A couple weeks later, Williamsburg police say Erick Martinez raped a 12-year-old girl he met on the same app.

“All you have to do is enter a profile name which could be anything.” the FBI said. “It links you up with random strangers across the world.”

The FBI calls Kik the most dangerous app out there. We’re told most of the cases agents are seeing start on that app.

Agents say parents should also watch out for Snapchat and Omegle.

“You don’t have to have a birthday, you don’t have put in your email address, phone number or not even your true name,” FBI agents added.

It’s a scary thought for parents and new apps always coming and going.

“Being a high school teacher, I see a lot of the technology and I know that I still couldn’t keep up,” said Hannah’s mom Kelly Singer.

Singer says she started warning her four children at an early age not to talk with strangers on the phone.

“We chose the route of trying to educate the kids more about it and some of the dangers,” Singer added.

The FBI says it’s up parents to monitor what kids are doing. They say to do spot checks on your kid’s phone and make sure you have all usernames and passwords.

There is also software called “Teen Safe” which records everything a teen does on a phone. Parents can see deleted text messages, photos and apps.

“Kids say they want privacy,” the FBI agent added. “They think their identity won’t be exposed and talk with whoever they want and it won’t come back, but it always does.”

10 On Your Side contacted and got this response:

Kik does not tolerate any illegal activity. As part of an ongoing effort to deter bad behavior, we cooperate with law enforcement requests when appropriate and provide tools for users to report unwanted contact or content. We also shut down the accounts of users when misuse comes to our attention.

Kik has implemented age verification procedures that are typical in the industry. We recommend that teens aged between 13 and 18 years get permission from their parent or legal guardian before they create a Kik account and start using Kik. Users are asked to enter their birthday when they create their account. If the birthday entered reflects an age younger than 13, the account won’t be registered.

Kik also shared a help guide for parents.

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