DO YOU really know who your teenage children are chatting to on social media and what their motives are?
Put simply, you don’t.
Armed with just a smartphone and some old photos from my younger years, I dived headlong into the “psychological sewer” that is the internet to prove how quickly apps such as Spotafriend can become dangerous to vulnerable, impressionable youngsters.
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It took me less than five minutes to set up a fake profile on the free teen “friend-finding” app and in less than three hours, I already had a message from a 16-year-old boy asking me to “dirty chat” with him.
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A quick tour of the app uncovered scores of pictures of girls as young as 13 posing suggestively in bikinis and bras, and boys wearing undies and little else.
Some posed unashamedly in their school uniform, or listed their school and suburb in their bio.
On the iTunes app store, Spotafriend, and other apps like it, carry warnings for “intense mature/suggestive themes, sexual content, nudity, alcohol, tobacco, or drug-use references”.
I spent no more than two minutes at a time flicking through the app and the whole experience left me feeling pretty sick to my stomach.
Several young boys with profiles declaring they were “too young for Tinder so I’m here instead” called me “sexy” and “baby”, and asked me to Snapchat them.
Prominent child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg told me I was “so brave” for chasing this story.
“If we can alert mums and dads to the existence of this stupid app and to the dangers, then I think we’re doing good work,” Dr Carr-Gregg said.
I don’t feel brave or noble. I feel sad and perplexed. And I couldn’t delete the app soon enough.[“Source-heraldsun”]