Turn To Tara: Filters on social media platforms can be manipulated by predators
Filters that alter appearance on sites such as TikTok and Instagram are all the rage. Experts warn the technology is also being manipulated by predators, however.
Titania Jordan, from the online safety company Bark Technologies, demonstrated to the Turn to Tara team how easy it is for predators to alter their image to lure in younger TikTok users. In a post that has gone viral, Jordan transforms herself from a 42-year-old old woman to a 16-year-old girl in less than a minute
She says anyone from drug dealers to online predators can do the exact same thing to lure in younger and unsuspected TikTok users.
"If you have any tech savviness whatsoever about you, you can crop the filter and use it to groom and exploit and get engaged in conversation with children," says Jordan.
In 2023, Jordan says Bark analyzed more than 4.5 billion messages across texts, email and social media platforms, including TikTok, and says the data was alarming.
She says 9% of tweens and 14% of teenagers encountered predatory behaviors from someone online, while 62% of tweens and 82% of teenagers encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature.
This is concerning for parents, considering it only takes the average predator roughly eight minutes to form a bond with a child. "Parents don't realize just how prevalent these strangers are and how smart they are. They are skilled in manipulation, and you've got to arm your children and yourself with that knowledge and protect them.”
Jordan says parents need to encourage their children to be "share aware" by talking openly and often about what sites they're visiting, what games they're playing and who they're chatting with. Jordan says to create a family environment where your child feels safe talking about difficult topics. And most importantly, parents should monitor devices for potentially harmful communications.