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  • A Stranger Sent A Photo Of His Private Parts To My 11-Year-Old Niece

    She never even posted a photo of her niece on the account.
    by Kitty Elicay .
A Stranger Sent A Photo Of His Private Parts To My 11-Year-Old Niece
PHOTO BY iStock
  • For parents, uploading photos of their kids on social media has become almost second nature. Some even create separate accounts for their children, so as not to clutter their personal feeds and to immortalize special moments with the family. But while it may be cute, fun, and harmless most of the time, the sad reality is that there are strangers lurking online who want to take advantage of your underage children.

    We’ve read of online sexual predators who try to groom kids and lure them into doing unthinkable acts, but it’s hard to take seriously unless it happens close to home. Well, we recently came across a chilling story of a Pinay mom who opened a social media account for her 11-year-old niece, only to have a stranger message her a few months later and be sent an explicit photo.

    In a public Facebook post, Adah Reyes-Hicarte, 42, shares how a man ended up messaging her in the Instagram account that she opened for her niece, Sara Athena“Pedophiles on social media are real," Adah writes. "I have an 11-year-old niece who has talent in arts. I am so proud of her and I would like to showcase her works through Instagram. I created an account and put [the] hashtag, #11yearold every time I upload her work.”

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    Speaking to SmartParenting.com.ph via email, Adah shares that since opening the account in January 2020, not once did she post a photo of her niece. “I only post her artworks. She doesn’t have access to the account,” she clarifies.

    When Adah received the first message from an unknown account on April 18, which read, “Bitte antworte” (a German phrase which Google translates as, ‘please answer’), she could have easily ignored it. But she tells us that she wanted to confirm her inkling, which is why she accepted the message request and replied.

    “Since I watch Criminal Minds, I have an inkling where the conversation will lead to,” Adah shares on Facebook.

    In the message thread that she uploaded, the stranger asked Adah how old she was, to which she replied, “What’s with the question?” After a few exchanges, the stranger said, “I wanna show you something,” then proceeded to send an explicit photo.

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    Adah shared the photo of her conversation with the stranger on Facebook. She also told the parents of her niece about what happened.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Adah Reyes-Hicarte
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    “Before I opened the photo attachment, I asked my husband to look at it first if it is indeed a private part because I don’t want to see it,” Adah shares.

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    Adah, who is an information technology business analyst, tells Smart Parenting that it was her first time to receive this kind of message. She writes on Facebook that she reported the account immediately, but got a reply from Instagram that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they had limited staff and capacity to investigate.

    It’s a relief that her niece does not have access to the account, but what about other kids who already manage their own social media channels? Adah, who is a mom herself, hopes that by sharing her experience, parents will be moved to be more vigilant and watchful over their children’s online activities. “Technology is good but sometimes technology is used by criminals. Predators are now using Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms to lure their victims,” Adah says. “Parents give kids freedom to access [social media,] but as parents, we have to be vigilant [over] how they are using it and who they are talking to.”

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    Online dangers on social media

    Adah’s experience is disturbing and unfortunately, it has also happened to many children all over the world. Roo Powell, a 37-year-old mom of three, went undercover as an 11-year-old child (with manipulated photos that made her look younger) and created a documentary that showed how quick online predators are at victimizing innocent children. (Read her story here.)

    “The brutal reality is that the predator doesn’t have to be in the same room, building or even country to abuse a child,” Powell says in the documentary. “Libby and Bailey (Powell’s aliases) may not be real, but they represent countless children who are being sexually and psychologically abused both online and in real life. I think how I would have felt as a young impressionable child. I would have kept the abuses to myself for fear of being ashamed and blamed. I would have suffered with it secretly and quietly.”

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    Joslyn Palma, a senior associate at a risk management company shares in a previous Smart Parenting article that creating a social media account for your child poses a number of dangers not only for your child, but your family as well.

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    “It’s very easy to mine personal information on your child, including age, photos, and current location. While in the Philippines the risks are more physical in nature, like kidnapping or photo stealing, there is also the risk your son or daughter is used as a poster child for malicious activities such as child pornography. As many child porn sites deal with photo trading, it is not uncommon to steal photos of children and sell them on sites,” she says.

    Having a social media account for your child might also make it easier for the predator to monitor his or her movements. It opens her up to “online grooming,” where strangers contact the child through social media and convince them to leave with the stranger. “It becomes a gateway for human trafficking,” Palma says.

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