Brad Summer, a dad from Batavia, Illinois, is on a mission to protect kids from online predators. That’s why Summer, who describes himself as a “private person,” shared disturbing messages sent to his seven-year-old daughter, Madison. “I knew I had to take action,” Summer tells Us Weekly.
The exchange happened on a popular lip-synching app called Musical.ly, a social network that allows users to create their own videos and share them on their profile. In Summer's post, he noted that Madison was playing on his phone. “She used this app to connect with her cousins and make goofy duets of songs together. We have accepted friends of theirs and our daughter believed this was another one,” he wrote in the post published earlier this month. “I never thought of someone pretending to be 9 to gain access to my child.”
According to the screenshots, a person posing as a 9-year-old girl named Jessy, asks Madison how old she is. Moments later, the individual encourages Madison, who is in second grade, to send “pics without t-shirt.” When Madison refuses, Jessy tells her to “make some new pics in bathroom . . . without clothes” and that “it’s a secret between only us.”
The conversation comes to a screeching halt when Madison turns the phone over to her father, who informs the person on the other end that “we have documented your IP address and location.”
Summer's post has been shared nearly 77,000 times so far. “I've had people reach out to me privately,” the 39-year-old network engineer tells Us. “Many more apps are susceptible to this types of abuse.
Michelle Langston, a detective with the Batavia Police Department, can’t share information because the investigation is open and ongoing. However, Langston was happy to provide tips for keeping minors safe. “Parental control is one of the most important things,” the public information officer tells Us. “You should know your kids’ passwords and check up on their social media feeds regularly to make sure nothing inappropriate is going on. Definitely check their Internet history logs.”
Langston also recommends researching the apps on your child’s device. “Some apps are meant to hide photos, videos and chats,” she says. “Make sure you are familiar with those.”
A spokesperson at Musicl.ly encourages parents to visit http://musicallyapp.tumblr.com/parents where they will find helpful information about internet safety and online privacy. It should be noted that Musical.ly is intended for users 13 and over and that is stated in the terms of service.
Musical.ly has a 12+ app rating, which means parents have an ability to block it using device controls.