SEATTLE — Forget Facebook or Twitter, more and more kids are checking in on social media sites where users are anonymous, and police in Lake Forest Park say one of those cellphone apps led to the sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl.
“Every single day a new app comes out on a phone and as parents we really need to be involved,” Lake Forest Park Police Chief Stephen Sutton said. “That was the cause of this.”
“Facebook is barely used anymore,” Leen, a junior at Shorecrest High School, said. “Because when you say something, you actually know who’s saying it.”
In the case of the 12-year-old, police said she was communicating with 21-year-old Ron Peterson via the app, Whisper. The app allows users to reveal secrets while staying secret, but there is also the option to see if other users are nearby and chat with them. In their conversations, the girl lied to Peterson and told him she was older.
Peterson told detectives he found the girl on the app, and eventually convinced her to climb out of her window at home and take off with him. He took her to a nearby motel where he told police he had sex with her.
The incident happened in early September and Peterson was held on suspicion of child rape. He was charged Wednesday with luring and communication with a minor for immoral purposes. He has no prior criminal convictions.
In court documents, Snohomish County prosecutor Mark Roe said that Peterson “is a substantial danger to commit a violent offense or otherwise interfere with the administration of justice” and requested his bail be set at $100,000.
Paul Narancic, a parent and middle school counselor, said parents should monitor all of the sites and apps their kids use, and also know the passwords.
He also believes parents shouldn’t be afraid to cut kids off from their technology if they witness cyber bullying or worse, a luring that could end in a child being victimized.
“If it’s creating a lot of drama, then you may just have to pull the plug,” Narancic said.