State Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, came out swinging at TikTok on Monday, saying predators use the app to target children.
While TikTok has drawn fire for its ties to the Chinese government and over personal data security, Book and her Lauren’s Kids nonprofit pointed to other dangers associated with it.
Lauren’s Kids released a PSA video on Monday.
“The popular app TikTok has come under scrutiny recently for reportedly sharing its user’s personal data – but that’s not the only danger lurking on the app. South Florida based nonprofit Lauren’s Kids has released a PSA video focusing on the dangers of popular apps such as TikTok as it relates to child and teen digital safety. As the National Sexual Assault Hotline reports record demand, with many calls for help coming from children, this PSA highlights the ever-growing prevalence of predation on apps and social media sites frequented by children,” Lauren’s Kids noted.
“With one in five children being sexually solicited online it’s more important than ever we bring awareness to these very real dangers,” Book, the founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids, said on Monday. “Those who seek to abuse and exploit children online frequent the very same apps, games and social media sites as their intended victims. It is critical for parents to be educated about these dangers, and what they can do to reduce the risk to their child.”
Lauren’s Kids stressed that more children are spending time on digital devices during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The FBI has released guidance warning of increased digital predation during COVID-19, with kids spending more time than usual on digital devices – a warning echoed by Internet crimes against children detectives across the state. While many parents believe they would know if their child were being abused or exploited, 75 percent of victims do not tell about their abuse within a year, nearly half of all victims do not tell within five years, and many stay silent for even longer due to feelings of fear, shame, and guilt. Whether in-person or online, predators typically “groom” their victims for abuse – first gaining trust, then testing boundaries and secret-keeping, and finally exploiting a child to get what they want – often using threats or demands to make their victim feel trapped, at fault, and afraid to get help,” Lauren’s Kids noted.
“The reality is that 95 percent of sexual abuse is preventable through education and awareness,” Book said. “Parents may think their children are safer at home during the pandemic, but child predators are smart. They know how to gain trust and then exploit it. It is important to have loving conversations about safety, both online and in person, and to make sure your child knows they can always come to you for help – no matter the situation.”
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.