The Short of It
Online video prankster Coby Persin reached out to parents of teens on Craigslist to help him with a social experiment. He wanted parents to see how willing their teenage daughters would be to meet with who they thought were teen boys they'd just friended on Facebook and chatted with for less than a week. The carefully calculated scenarios ended with irate parents, shocked teens and a lesson about meeting strangers.
Persin's idea was inspired by a news report of a 27-year-old man who abducted a 12-year-old girl after the two met on social media. He decided to record a staged video, with the permission of the parents, to create awareness for teenage girls and their parents. The video, which shows the girls meeting a new Facebook friend in person while their parents linger close by to reprimand them, has been viewed more than 12 million times.
The three girls in the video are ages 12, 13 and 14. One willingly gets into a van with a stranger, another meets her new friend at a public park, and the other opens the door to her home to the person she's been texting for less than one week.
"I asked the parents, 'Have you talked to your kids about not talking to strangers?'" Persin explained. "They all said 'yes.'"
Of course, the kids and parents were both shocked by the experiment. The parents couldn't believe their daughters would make such poor decisions and the teens screamed, cried and were scared speechless when their parents appeared.
Lenore Skenazy, author of "Free-Range Kids," is not sold on the video's mission. She told Yahoo Parenting that the experiment was a scare tactic that could seriously traumatize them and break the teens' trust for their parents.
"It reinforces the idea that every child is in constant danger from strangers, and that's not the case," she says. "I think it's worthwhile to have a conversation with your kids and tell them that they can talk to anyone, but they cannot go off with anyone. I'm not saying that this never happens, but what disturbs me about our culture is that we are encouraged to think in terms of the worst-case scenario in every situation."
Unfortunately, the number of young teen girls meeting boys they friend on social media isn't rare. The journal "Pediatrics" conducted a study in 2013 that found that of 231 adolescent girls ages 14 to 17, a staggering 30 percent reported meeting someone they met online in person.
Have you talked to your teen about meeting friends from social media in real life?
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