11-year-old boy reunited with his family after stealing a car to meet a man he met on Snapchat
An 11-year-old boy in Simpsonville, South Carolina stole his brother’s car and drove 200 miles through the night to Charleston, South Carolina to meet an adult man he had been talking to on Snapchat. According to Charleston Police, the boy drove through the night on Sunday, September 22, 2019, until a little after midnight when he pulled up next to a police officer claiming he was lost.
According to WCIV, the boy told police that he was going to live with a man he met online. This story is obviously a cautionary tale of the horrors of social media, but the ironic twist of fate that ultimately saved the boy’s life is that Snapchat automatically deletes messages after both users have seen it. The boy used his father’s tablet to navigate to the man’s home as he drove, but when the tablet lost its GPS signal, the boy couldn’t recover the man’s address from Snapchat and didn’t know where to go. That’s when the boy pulled over and asked a police officer for help.
Officers contacted the boy’s father — who was already on the phone with police to report his missing son — and he drove to Charleston immediately. The boy is now reunited with his family and the father’s tablet is currently in police custody “for analysis” and they have not discovered the identity of the man from Snapchat.
After the incident, WCIV released this instructional video on how to use the “Find My Friends” app to track your children’s whereabouts via their cell phone.
Social media is the wild wild west and stories like this are terrifying. How do you even give your kid a phone without worrying who is on the other end of their Snapchat/Instagram/Twitter chat? Snapchat currently has a “Parent’s Guide to Snapchat,” though it’s more of a “What is Snapchat?” primer than a guide to keeping your child safe on the app, which Snapchat seems unable to do. There are ways to restrict who your child can talk to on Snapchat, like limiting their online community to “My Friends,” though your child can easily edit the privacy settings themselves and revert their account back to a public-facing one. Also, Snapchat claims that you must be 13 to sign up for an account, however, the 11-year-old in this story clearly found a workaround.
After the boy was safely reunited with his family, Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds had this to say about the perils of social media.
“I would love tonight, right now, anybody who’s watching this, who is a parent of a child, especially an 11-year-old, to sit down with your 11-year-old, right now, right this moment, and have a conversation about what you’re doing on social media, the dangers, the benefits and things that as a parent we need to talk about every day,” he told WCIV.