SAN ANTONIO – A ten-year-old boy in San Antonio happened to be doing research for a science project when he came across something incredibly inappropriate.
“I was scrolling down the pictures to find the right one. One of the pictures was a naked lady,” the boy says. His mother has asked us to not share his name.
Video games are also a concerning platform for him because of the chat rooms available.
“My friend, he was playing and this one guy asked him where he lived,” he says.
These are just examples of what kids have access to them online and who seems to have access to them.
A parent monitoring tool called “Bark” aims to prevent predators’ access to children. It uses artificial intelligence and algorithms to comb through different social media posts a day.
“There’s Twitter, there’s Instagram, there’s Snapchat, there’s Kik, there’s Spotify. Wherever your kids are, we’re monitoring,” says Titania Jordan, Bark’s Chief Parenting Officer. “When our technology detects an issue like cyberbullying, sexual content, thoughts of suicide and depression, potential drug use, and online predators, our technology will send an alert to parents and schools, letting them know what happened and then how best to deal with it.”
But to really demonstrate how alarming the online world can be, Bark did an experiment on online platform “Medium” – a piece that gained more than 6 million views. One of Bark’s employees, a 37-year-old mom, had photos of herself edited to look like an eleven-year-old girl. They started a social media account. Within minutes, adults from all over the world were contacting her.
“Graphic depictions of things that I don’t even know if I can say much more about,” Jordan says.
These strangers initiated video chats. They asked for sexual favors – all from what these predators thought was an eleven-year-old girl.
Mandy Majors, founder of local non-profit nextTalk, says apps and systems like these are great as tools for parents, but that families shouldn’t rely solely on the technology.
“Sometimes it can be a false sense of security. For example, many times kids know that we're monitoring their phone. So, if they want to sneak around us, they may use a friend's phone,” Majors says. “It's really about the relationship, the healthy dialog between you and your child, so that when something pops up or something that they're uncomfortable with seeing online, that they're going to feel comfortable coming and telling you.”