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What Is “Catfishing” And Why Is It So Dangerous?

Advocates are warning people to be careful online after police said “catfishing” was a big part of a triple murder in Riverside.

Mark Berkman, CEO of the Organization for Social Media Safety, said, “Catfishing is a big part of what’s going on out there that hurts children.”

Berkman said that “catfishing” is when someone pretends to be someone else on social media. They can do this by using a fake name, age, appearance, or gender on their profile. He also said that it was a working definition because the term is changing with each new case. Predators can use catfishing to trick someone into giving up personal information, which is what police say happened in a brutal triple murder in Riverside.

“Parents and kids need to know that these predators are very smart,” Berkman said. “So it can be hard to tell the difference between a real account and a fake profile used by someone who is catfishing.”

Berkman also said that catfishes will use all kinds of platforms, and if your child is talking to someone they’ve never met in person, that’s a big red flag.

He said, “We’ve seen cases of catfishing on big platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and gaming platforms like Fortnite and Roblox.”

Berkman says that the first thing you can do to protect your kids is to teach them what catfishing is. Set the ground rules for social media.

“Especially for younger teens, especially “tweens,” they shouldn’t connect with people they don’t know in real life, preferably people who aren’t their age,” he said.

Third, parents should think about installing safety software from a third party.

“Parents can use software that will scan your child’s social media account for certain harmful content,” said Berkman.

Lastly, Berkman said that social media sites need to work with parents to keep kids safe. His group has worked on laws to make this possible.

He said, “Our biggest plan for the coming year is to pass a law called Sammy’s Law.” That would mean that all social media sites would have to give parents the option to use safety software from a third party, which can be a good first line of defence against predatory behavior.

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