Like any parent Lindsey Paris loved sharing pictures of her son online for friends and family to see. She also used family pictures for her blog until one day when she clicked one of her new follower’s Facebook profiles.
“Low and behold her cover photo was my son’s photo and she was posting it and conversing with her friends as if he was her own. They were like he is so cute I love his red hair. When is he going to start teething?” said Paris. Paris was horrified and messaged the girl asking her to take it down.
“I found out she was a 16 year old girl who lived in California and spoke little to no English, and fortunately she had no malice. She always wanted a redheaded son she said and didn’t think she had hurt my feelings by taking my picture. Basically playing house to the highest degree,” said Paris.
The 16-year-old took those pictures down, but that was not an isolated incident.
It’s called digital kidnapping. “We see it quite frequently,” claims Len Edwards the director of the Commission of Missing and Exploited Children. Edwards said this type of online role playing was popular with some teenagers and predators.
“There is a reality, and there is a fantasy. People are creating fantasy adoptions, people are creating virtual fantasies. It may be just an obsessive act on their part but it can be manipulated to become dangerous,” said Edwards. This could turn into a real child abduction or even child pornography.
“They can take those pictures and they can take them and manipulate them, and shadow them and put clothes on them and take clothes off of them,” said Edwards.
He told us all a “sharent,” or a person who wants to share a picture while pretending, had to do was click on certain well known hashtags on Instagram.
There’s a bank of thousands of pictures up for grabs as a part of this unusual game.
“Every parent’s prized possession is their child and I think that you seeing your child’s photograph on another person’s website that shouldn’t have it is quite frightening,” said Edwards.
According to Facebook and Instagram’s user agreements, you gave permission for worldwide use of your pictures based on your privacy settings.
Edwards recommended being proactive about preventing a digital kidnap before it happens by making your account and all pictures private to anyone but your friends you know and trust.
You could also run the pictures through apps that will stamp a watermark on it so it’s identified as yours.
Despite that if you realize your child’s identity has still been high jacked immediately contact the site’s administrators and make them aware.
Since becoming a victim, Paris said she changed the way she posts photos and encouraged you to adopt a privacy setting you are comfortable with.
“I don’t overshare. I don’t use my son’s real name. I watermark a lot of my photos, and I’m just really careful about what appears in the photos and all that sort of stuff,” said Paris. Paris believed it was important for all parents to take this seriously.
transcript: the commission on missing and exploited children will host its 19th annual golf tournament this saturday. >> the event a silent auction and local 24 will be out there. to tell us more about it is len edwards. >> thank you for joining us today. >> it’s my pleasure. >> it was formed after a children, one was the adam walsh child and many others and we formed a collaborative effort with the police department in the sheriffs department to better address the missing children issues that we face. >> their website is really informative. definitely check it out it’s a good way to prevent >> and this is a big weekend you are having your golf tournament. can you tell us a little bit about it? >> one thing i’m very proud of is we had a very diverse tournament we have layers and plumbers. >> that is great. >> and we have had it for 19 years it is our biggest fundraiser of the year. >> and there is still time to get tickets? >> you can register at the door in the morning if you like we still have spaces available. good crowd. >> we are showing a close-up of this beautiful handmade this is one of the silent auction items? what else do you have? >> we have a guitar, we have a host of very nice donations that were given to us by some organizations.haritable we are going to be in good shape. >> thank you so much for being here. for more information you can go to comec.org.
Hundreds of thousands of children are reported missing every year in the United States.
Many children are taken by family members, though some are stranger abductions.
Sometimes they’re missing for years and in some cases the children are never found.
The Commission on Missing and Exploited Children has been serving our community for more than two decades.
Their purpose is to help keep children safe, especially in a time when we’ve seen an increase in Amber Alerts.
Sgt. Len Edwards talked with us about how the agency operates.
COMEC Golf Tournament
- Links of Galloway
- Saturday, September 20th at 8 a.m.
View full interview here.
At the 50th annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner for the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County, Kristen Waddell received the COMEC Volunteer of the Year Award from Sgt. Len Edwards, COMEC’s Executive Director. Kristen has been a board member for COMEC for nearly four years. She is currently the board president. In attendance were board members Patti Phleps, Andy Phelps and Pam Taylor.
Focusing on the safety and protection on children, this episode of The Spark features COMEC’s Executive Director Sgt. Len Edwards as well as board vice president Patti Phelps of Phelps Security.
We see children daily for a host of reasons. These children are suspected of using illicit substances, have behavioral problems, anger issues, gang affiliation and others problems.
However, to me, there is nothing that bothers me more than children who feel (for whatever reason) that they don’t belong. Sometimes the result is that they have disconnected from their faith, family and education. Sometimes kids, usually in their teens become defiant and want to take control of their own decision making. We often say that these teens want the independence of an adult but the responsibility of a child.
“Tommy” sat in my office and told me that he was tired of being told what to do. He said he had no freedom, and that his mother was trying to tell him who he could be friends with. He was being told where he could go, when he had to be home and he hated the authority exerted by school.
He (barely 16 years old) thought that his single mom just used him as a babysitter for his younger siblings while his she worked. He was using tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, and oftentimes left his younger siblings at alone while his mother was at work. Mom was infuriated! “If he can’t do what I tell him to do then he can just- get out! If he is not going to help me then what use is he to me or the family?”
Candy was a defiant, angry little girl of 14 that was brought our office because she was frequently running away from home. Candy was about 4’11 and weighed about 85 pounds. She literally thought, and behaved like, she was an adult. Her mom and dad divorced, and each had engaged in new relationships, and each had brought additional children into the homes from previous relationships.
Candy was wearing a spaghetti strapped mid-drift black shirt that said, “Budding Bitch” on it. Candy was wearing heavy make-up, had long fingernails and obviously was trying to look twenty years old. The child’s mother stated to me that she would not go to school, and that if she did she usually left at lunch time to “hook-up” with her older friends who had cars. The mom asked me if I knew of a “boot camp” where she could send her to teach her a lesson… or even better a military school.
Parenting 101 She did not just start dressing like this today. Who is the parent, who is the child? Who buys her clothes? Why does she want to appear to be so much older than what she is? Could it be that she wants out and realizes that an adult relationship is the train out of town?
We have children brought in office daily by parents for a host of reasons. Their children are thought to be using illicit substances, behavioral problems, anger issues, gang affiliation and others. To me, there is nothing that bothers me more than children who feel (for whatever reason) that they don’t belong.
Sometimes the result is that they have disconnected from their faith, family and education. Sometimes children, usually in their teens, become defiant and want to take control of their own decision making. I often say that these teens want the independence of an adult, but the responsibility of a child.
Tommy sat in my office and told me that he was tired of being told what to do. He said he had no freedom, and that his mother was trying to tell him who he could be friends with. He was being told where he could go, when he had to be home, and who he could be with, and he hated the authority exerted by school.
Tommy just turned 16 years old, and thought that his single mom just used him as a babysitter for his younger siblings while his mother worked. Tommy was using tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, and oftentimes left his younger siblings at home or alone while his mother was at work. Mom was infuriated, “if he can’t do what I tell him to do then he can just- get out! If he is not going to help me, then what use is he to me or the family?”
A throwaway child is a child who no longer recognizes or accepts parental control and through frustration, that parent simply tells the child to leave home with the “clothes on his/her back. Oftentimes, these children do not have the street-survival skills to make it on their own and become ripe for exploitation by older and more sophisticated street people.
Parenting 101 He is not your spouse nor the father of your other children. He needs to be in school, involved with positive and constructive activities, and you need to create some quality time with him alone, and let him know how much he is loved.
Parents recently came into the office with their 17 year old son who has become increasingly more aggressive toward his family, and had been suspected of using drugs. The young man’s new friends consisted of drop-outs, thugs and dopers. The family could not understand what was going on and why their once honor roll student and school athelete was going in this direction.We offered free drug screening service and once the results were in (they were negative), the family returned in for an interview.
The mother and father came to the office with the child and I spoke child alone. I asked what was happening to rock his world. He stated that his mom and dad were fighting terribly about money, as his father had been laid off. The son thought that his parents were going to get divorced, and that he did not think it was fair for all of the anger to spill over to the rest of the family, and that he was escaping the stress by leaving.
I then brought the parents in alone and spoke to them together regarding their son’s concerns about a pending divorce. They were shocked! Together, the parents stated that a divorce was not even a consideration – it had not even been discussed. They agreed that things had become very stressful at home but thought that their discussion of the problems in front of the kids probably was not appropriate.
Next I brought all of them together and had the parents reassure the child that their home was intact – that they loved him, and eachother, but was just not used to having money problems. Mom cried, dad cried, kid cried (I almost did too!) Family hug and kid promised to straighten out now that he was not threatened by the divorce issue.
One month later, Mom comes back to the office with her son, drops off a generous donation and says, “you know? It’s all about communication, and we needed COMEC to come in and help us better communicate with eachother and know that our strength as a family was the most important thing of all.”
Len – it would be great for you to add some kind of observation here. Maybe something like: “Children are watching their parents, often when the parents are unaware. Kids often make conclusions, while not valid, are very real to them. Remember to talk to your kids. Ask them questions – be involved in their life. Let them know what you’re thinking too.
At the Commission on Missing and Exploited Children (COMEC) it is all about children and the issues that affect them. Today’s world is filled with challenges for families.
Some familiar such as truancy and others like Internet safety that are new territory for everyone. For over 23 years COMEC has identified and instituted programs that help children and those who are charged with their care. Promoting the safety and protection of all children and connecting families is what our organization is all about.
Children who run away, children who are taken, children who are kicked out of their homes, or simply a child or parent who need help in facing the many obstacles that challenge them. We are here to support them and you.
Should you need guidance, direction, encouragement or technical assistance in bringing your child home. COMEC is the Mid-South’s resource for keeping our children safe.
COMEC is the ONLY non-profit missing children’s organization in Tennessee (501c3 status). We administer the region’s AMBER Alert. We are a small group with the huge task of implementing and administering programs designed to protect the children of the Mid-South from predators of all kinds, those they might encounter in public and on the internet. We search for missing children. We provide child identification cards, fingerprinting kits, in-home drug testing kits, counseling and Internet safety seminars.