Recently, I gave an ‘online safety’ talk to a group of schoolkids.
Part way through, I asked them a strange question:
“Who here has had a stranger on Instagram ask them for a picture of their feet?”
The teachers in the room were confused … but the kids knew what I meant.
Instantly, about a dozen hands went up.
One particular boy — he was 12 years old — told me he’d been contacted by a man online:
The man told him he was studying podiatry in Eastern Europe, and needed a photo of a young Australian boy’s feet. (To compare to the children in Eastern Europe, of course.)
So this boy — being naturally trusting, as most kids are — happily sent back a picture of his feet.
What he didn’t know was that he was being “groomed” … and this was just the first stage of something much worse.
The man came back and thanked the boy for his picture. Just what he needed, he said.
But then, he had another request: for some more … inappropriate photos.
Of course, the boy wasn’t that naive. He responded: “Come on, I’m just a kid!”
The reply he got couldn’t have been more chilling:
“I’m 37 years old, and I think I’m in love with you.”
It gets worse though.
The stranger then started sending him a flurry of pictures of himself.
They showed him sitting at a dinner table …
With another man …
And a whole group of other young boys.
Does that make you feel ill?
Well, the part that should scare you is what happened next:
The boy responded, quite naturally, with a bunch of curse words — telling the stranger to “get f...ed”.
But then … he didn’t tell his parents about what had happened.
Because he thought he’d get in trouble … for swearing.
By the time I found out about this incident, six months had already passed — and he was still too afraid to talk to his parents about it.
The only reason this story ever got told was because I knew what to ask for with my ‘strange’ question about feet.
And it begs the question:
As parents, how much is going on with our kids that we just have no idea about?
Trust me, this is just one example of literally hundreds I’ve come across, where kids are being exposed to things their parents have no clue about.