My 11-year-old son is a really good kid, and I am so grateful for that. Part of the reason he's such a good kid, in my opinion, is that he gets really strong emotional and intellectual support at home.
The rest is all him. He's very smart, totally empathic and generally trouble-free.
We moved to a really wonderful neighborhood back in May, and part of me hoped the kids would be different somehow, and they are. Mostly in a good way, because here, most parents are on top of stuff with their kids, actively and intentionally parenting.
A few kids in our old neighborhood had parents who were just as involved, but many others weren't so lucky.
But in the new place, involved parents seem to be the norm.
That's why last week, when I overheard part of a conversation between the neighborhood kids in which one was telling the other that his mom wouldn't let him download some app, I thought nothing of it.
These are good kids, I thought. Nothing to worry about.
But a few days later, I noticed my son isolating himself (unusual behavior for him) and that he'd been on his phone more than usual. And he suddenly developed this desire to play with some neighborhood kids with whom he'd previously had a lukewarm relationship at best.
As is my habit (and as he's always known was a condition of his continued use of the phone), I took the phone without warning (no time to delete anything that way) in order to spot check him.
My son immediately confessed that he'd been planning to sneak out with these kids in order to walk to "the store" to buy candy and toys. The nearest store is about three miles from here. Oh, and, they were planning this little trip for after their parents fell asleep for the night.
The KIK app and what parents need to know about it
If that part wasn't scary enough, it got worse. These kids had encouraged Noah to download the KIK app, which, according to my research so far, is very dangerous.
For whatever reason, my son downloaded the app. He's human, and peer pressure got the best of him. I'm not mad at him; it's my job to keep him safe.
He just figured it was a chat app. His friends brought him into a public chat room on the app where they proceeded to post photos of him.
An even scarier thing? The unknown people in this virtual chat room asked questions such as "who's house?" and made comments that were vaguely sexual in nature.
This caused me to instantly bristle, and based on the comments and the context, I felt that this was an adult who might be pretending to be a kid in order to groom these kids for something worse.
The feeling got worse when I read through to the end of the conversation, the part at which something, some unknown force, drove me to take the phone and check it. (On a related note, this is why you should never ignore "gut" feelings - tune into your intuition and make your entire life so much better, for real.)
That was when the conversation stopped being vaguely sexual and got outright explicit, not to mention completely inappropriate for anyone of this age.
Thank goodness I took the phone when I did, because I am fairly sure whoever it was had been gearing up to ask for more explicit photos.
The KIK app is marketed as a chat app, but most "in-the-know" people will tell you that it's a sexting app.
While I'm not judging anyone who's into sexting (hey, it can keep a marriage hot!), I do not want my children to ever engage in that or any activity that puts them at such risk.
I don't know any parent who does.
But here's what I really need you to hear: if you are the parent to a "good kid" like mine, you might think you don't need to check - you would be wrong.
See, even the two kids who sent my son down this path are good kids. Their parents are involved in their lives. They aren't neglected or abused; they're loved.
The lesson for me was simple: good kids are still human kids and they can still be deeply affected by peer pressure.
It might be easy to ignore your "good kids" a little, especially when you've got problem kids in the bunch or other drama in your life, but to do so creates a big area of risk - and in some cases, can send kids down various paths that no parent ever wants to see a child travel.
Sexting apps lead to sex crimes against kids more often than their creators care to acknowledge, especially dangerous ones like KIK. Below, you'll see a link to an article that describes two recent examples.
So tell me, are you keeping an eye on your "good kids" lately? Is it time to do a spot check? Let's discuss.
In separate cases, two men have been charged with using a smart phone application to solicit sex with juveniles, according to arrest reports.
Jeremy Paguiligan, 27, of Pensacola and Curtis Joshua Cannon, 27, of Jay both are accused of sex offenses that allegedly were initiated on the instant messaging app Kik.
Paguiligan was booked into Escambia County Jail on Tuesday on charges of lewd and lascivious behavior toward a victim aged 12 to 16 and promoting sexual performance by a child, according to jail records.
Last year, Paguiligan allegedly arranged to have intercourse with a 15-year-old girl using Kik, an Escambia County Sheriff's Office arrest report said. Investigators reportedly found sexually explicit photos and video on Paguiligan's cell phone that they believe to be Paguiligan and the victim.
Paguiligan has been taken into custody and booked into Escambia County Jail without bond.
In a non-related incident, Curtis Joshua Cannon, 27, was charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior toward a victim aged 12 to 16, one count of using a computer to solicit a child and one count of transmitting information harmful to minors.
Cannon allegedly used Kik to send illicit pictures, as well as solicit inappropriate sexual contact with a minor, according to an Escambia County Sheriff's Office arrest report. Cannon reportedly told investigators he had been advised by his attorney not to comment on the allegations.
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