3 minors and 3 men are the center of attention regarding 3 rape cases, the catch? A mobile flirting app called “Skout” was the proxy by which these rapes occurred, but how could it have been prevented?
Skout is a mobile phone app used for flirting with people nearby. Like a romantic Foursquare app, it allows you to check in your location and then chat or “flirt” with those nearby you. Skout’s founder Christian Wiklund worked hard on getting a working and safe business model implemented, yet the sand still falls through the cracks.
Age restrictions seemed to be a top priority, Skout’s team of developers as well as Mr. Wiklund working hard to prevent underage users from using the app and simultaneously keeping them safe from age-inappropriate persons and content. The problem here though is that children can still lie about their birthdate and consequently their age on the app. You can even login to Skout using Facebook, which we’ve discussed in the past, has trouble monitoring and catching underage users.
“I’m disgusted by what’s happened here,” Christian Wiklund, Skout’s founder, said in an interview “One case is too many. When you have three, it looks like a pattern. This is my worst fear.”
A pattern is unnerving, and with an increasingly digital youth, accessing and using the Internet at a younger age each year, this risk of false ages and sexual predation becomes very real. We stated in an earlier post that 23% of the U.S.’s youth uses smart phones with online capabilities, ones that can use apps like Skout. Consider that the number of teens using smartphones is going to continually grow, it is no stretch of the mind to conceive how this age dilemma could become a plague for parents and people like Mr.Wiklund.
A 15 year-old girl, 12 year-old girl and a 13 year old boy were the victims of this exploit in the security measure taken to try and prevent such scenarios from occurring, yet there is no easy solution to kids lying about their age on the Internet to gain access to age-restricted sites, networks, or even apps such as Skout. The most reasonable and accessible solution is monitoring and educating your children, that alongside restriction or even removal of the threats.
“I thought we were doing a lot, but obviously we have to do better,” Mr. Weiss, an investment partner in Skout, said, “This is a five-alarm fire. The entire company is re-evaluating everything it’s doing.” Skout is trying work against something when they’re at a great disadvantage. Until the age loophole problem is solved, parents must find other means to protect their kids online.
The Internet has a large potential for good, for education, but also to be exploited and abused. The best protection is prevention. As a parent, being proactive in your children’s’ online behavior and lives can be the best protection of all. Actively monitoring and controlling where your children go and what they see can be an excellent defense as well as an opportunity to teach online responsibility.
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