Southern Boone School District officials held a meeting for parents on the danger of social media as a gateway to child human trafficking Thursday.
A detective with the Boone County Sheriff’s Department Cyber Crimes Task Force and a member of the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition spoke to parents in the Southern Boone High School Auditorium.
“Over the past few years, we’ve noticed that we’ve had an increasing amount of investigations where students are involved in social media and things have turned, turned concerning,” SuperintendentChris Felmlee told ABC 17.
According to Felmlee, in the past year one student even ran away to meet someone they had “friended” online.
In 82 percent of online sex crimes against minors, offenders used the victim’s social media site to get information about them such as their likes and dislikes, according to the Cyber Crimes Task Force.
“I have two teenagers and I know a lot of things have happened in our community so far,” Becca Hay-Cockrum, a parent who attended the meeting, said. “And I know that that’s the way of people getting out and talking to other kids and older kids.”
The Cyber Crimes Task Force said the top three apps it saw in cyber crimes were Facebook, KIK and Snapchat.
Glen Sapp, a bus driver for the school district, said he heard concerning conversations between students daily.
“I”m hearing the conversations that they’re using and I’m also watching them on the phone,” Sapp said. “And it’s just scary.”
At the meeting, parents and members of the community learned about safe online browsing practices, what to do when concerned or victimized and suicide warning signs.
“Kids think that they’re friending someone their age and in reality, we’ve had several instances where it’s not,” Felmlee said. “It’s someone who’s much older.”
Hay-Cockrum said she was aware of the issue and it had already been discussed with her children.
“I check their phones daily,” she said. “I know what apps they’re on. I’m also on their same app so if they post things I see them.”
Later this school year, officials will also talk to students in the middle and high schools about what they can do when conversations online become concerning.