Rep. Linehan Warns Parents And Children About Predatory Social Media Apps

August 12, 2019

Representative Liz Linehan, House chair of the legislature’s Committee On Children, warned parents and children Monday about the dangers of social media apps, specifically Tik Tok and FACE CAST, after a Connecticut child was targeted recently for child exploitation.

Linehan said the 9-year-old girl was approached on Tik Tok and told that if she downloaded an app called FACE CAST, she would gain 1,000 followers on her Tik Tok account. But after downloading the app she was brought into a chat room with hundreds of other children, where they were asked to film themselves and upload the videos. The child was told they would find her family and hurt them if she did not comply.

Linehan urged parents to check their children’s devices for FACE CAST and immediately delete the app.

“Parents should not only monitor their children’s devices, but also have open, honest discussions about child exploitation and the methods predators use to lure, groom and abuse children,” she said.

Children often don’t realize that the photos and videos they are asked to create are for the gratification of adult abusers, Linehan said.

“What could seem funny or innocuous to a child — taking photos of feet or a video of themselves using the bathroom — could in fact be exploitative and predatory. The photos and videos could be used for nefarious purposes,” she said. “Abusers count on a child’s innocence. Once a photo or video is shared or traded online, it can be used to blackmail the child into making videos more sexual or fetish in nature.”

“We should teach our children that they shouldn't speak to strangers in person or online; and NEVER give a photo or video of themselves to any person, at any time. If anyone asks you to do or say anything which seems off, or makes you uncomfortable, immediately end the conversation and tell a trusted adult,” she said.

Linehan said parents should tell their children:

  • Never accept a friend request or start a conversation with someone you don’t know, even another child. Oftentimes adults pose as children online to gain the trust of the child.
  • You do not have to talk to someone who talks to you. If someone contacts you, and you don’t know them, tell a parent immediately.
  • Don’t ever agree to meet anyone in person that you “met” online.
  • Never fill in an online profile with your full name, address, or phone number.
  • Don’t download or post anything without your parents’ permission.
  • It is safer to immediately report threats of violence to your parents and the police, than to try to handle it yourself. This is their job, and they’re here to protect you.
  • Anything put online is forever. A good rule to remember is if you wouldn’t want it on national television, don’t put it online.

Tips for parents whose children are online:

  • Monitor your children’s devices daily.
  • Only allow usage of the device in an area where adults are present, i.e., the family room, instead of in the child’s bedroom.
  • Do not allow children under 16 to use social media; if you do, allow only if settings are private at all times, and check often that those privacy settings remain intact.
  • Start a dialogue about internet safety as soon as possible.

If children, parents or guardians have any question or concern, Linehan is urging that they call her office at 1-800-842-8267 or (860) 240-8585.

In light of recent events, Representative Linehan is in the process of creating an event centered on internet safety and child exploitation, with practical advice for parents and children. When the event is finalized, another release will be distributed, and event information and registration will be online.