Our adolescents are increasingly communicating via social media apps to connect with their friends. Unfortunately some adolescents are also seeking out friendly strangers using their social media apps. Perhaps a child is feeling bullied by their peers at school or feel as though they are different from their immediate peers, so they turn to social media to find like-minded others for friendly conversations. To do so, adolescents are turning to username search websites to find those strangers. These username websites apply to various social media apps, including Kik and Snapchat, to name a few.
It is fairly simple to find these websites by typing in the words “username search” and the name of the social media app. Username searches categorize their usernames by interests, sexual interests, country of origin, etc. (Of course you have to enter your information into the username website to be part of the website.) Adolescents can then start conversations with the strangers they find on these username searches via their social media app.
While some individuals participating on the username websites are genuine individuals who simply want to have appropriate conversations with new people, there are also less genuine individuals who are simply seeking sex from others, wanting to share adult or child pornography, or want to take advantage of the unsuspecting seeker. It is clear on some of the websites that sex is the primary motive for participating on the website. For example, on one username search website, a picture of a bare breasted young female adult is prominently displayed on the top of the website home page. A recent adolescent client had been charged with possession of child pornography because someone they met on the username search website sent them a zip file within one hour of speaking with them via the Kik app. The adolescent downloaded the file and watched some of the pornography on the zip file, which happened to contain child pornography. He was then asked by other users from the username search website for this zip file. In all likelihood this adolescent had stumbled onto a child pornography ring. For obvious reasons, this experience was devastating for the adolescent and his entire family.
Please speak to your child about these username search websites and the risks involved in speaking to strangers on the Internet. These risks are real and the potential consequences are devastating.