A distressed mother warns parents to check their kids iPads after her seven-year-old daughter was groomed by a predator online
WARNING: This article contains content which may be distressing for some readers.
A Melbourne mother who is currently living in Chicago, Illinois shared her horrific experience after her seven-year-old daughter was left distraught after being groomed by a predator online through a popular new music app.
Sonja Bouw, a mother of three girls, recently downloaded the music app on her daughter Allegra’s iPad. Her daughter loves to sing and the app allows users to create their own music videos.
While downloading it, Sonja noticed it had a four and a half star rating on the app store, and it was alongside all the other big music apps, but she didn’t realise it had a messaging function within it.
Above: Sonja Bouw with her seven-year-old daughter Allegra
Last Saturday she walked past Allegra who was using the iPad. Allegra abruptly closed it not wanting her mother to see. Sonja became immediately concerned about her daughter’s odd behaviour and quickly took the iPad out of her daughter’s hands her to see what she was looking at, and that’s when she uncovered messages on it from another user.
“When I took the iPad out of Allegra’s hand within three seconds an image popped up,” she says on her Instagram video which was uploaded three days ago. The image was of a sexually explicit nature.
“About two minutes after that image came through, a video came through. So I’m just thanking my lucky stars that I intervened when I did because the video, in particular, was extremely graphic,” she says.
Above: Screenshots posted by Sonja on her Instagram and then censored out further by Judgy Mummy
Allegra then hid in the corner crying hysterically and begged her mother not to tell anybody because she thought it was her fault.
“It made me think of the whole Me Too Movement… all these women who over the years who have always been too scared to speak up. I never ever want my girls to feel like they can’t speak up. I hope they never find themselves in that situation but god forbid if they did I would never want them to think it’s their fault,” she says emotionally in her video.
“I feel like I’ve failed as a parent. I feel like I should have been all over this. The girls iPads are synced to my phone but clearly this shit can still happen,” she said extremely distressed.
That night Allegra went to bed worried and scared about what happened and said she never wanted to use the iPad again.
“It really affected her and it affected me. I might not be many things but I can tell you right now I’m a bloody good mother. I am so angry at myself that it has happened,” she candidly says in her video.
She immediately informed her child's school who talked to the students about internet safety the next day.
“You hear of all of these stories and you never think it’s never going to happen to you. And you know what it can happen to you, and it has happened to us.”
Don’t be a victim, protect your kids. “I beg you check your kids iPads right here, right now,” she says.
Above: Sonja Bouw with her three daughters Allegra, Anya and Theodora
The app called Funimate Music Video is a fairly popular video karaoke app where children can post videos of themselves singing and dancing to a huge public forum where anyone can comment or follow them. It is also ranked #1 on the App Store in more than 100 countries.
Above: Screenshot of the app posted by Sonja on her Instagram
Sonja has filed a report with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and aims to spread the word to other parents who may have this app on their children’s iPads.
She encourages parents to refer to websites like Safer Kid to check how apps are rated.
Tips to help keep your children cyber safe
Use the internet with your child, or be aware what she is doing when she's online.
Have dedicated screen-free areas in your house. You may want to ensure the computer and iPads are only used in areas where you can see what your children are watching, like in the kitchen or living room. This way you can act quickly if your child is concerned or upset by something she has seen.
Talk to your kids about internet safety rules like not giving out personal details or other secret information.
Discuss with your children the programs and apps that are OK for them to use.
Advise your child to never click on pop up advertisements.
Let your child know that she should ask you before she uses a new app, so you can check the privacy settings to keep her personal information private.
Use child-friendly search engines like Kiddle, or content providers like KIDOZ, ABC Kids or YouTube Kids.
Check that the games, websites and TV programs your child are using are appropriate. Undertake research and check their ratings and reviews on websites like Common Sense Media or Safer Kid.
Check privacy settings and location services, use parental controls, use safe search settings on browsers, apps, search engines and YouTube.
Block in-app purchases and disable one-click payment options on your devices.
Make sure older children follow your internet safety rules, like watching only age-appropriate programs when they go online with younger children.
Find out how to make complaints about offensive online content, and report anything you find that is inappropriate or offensive.
Cyber Safety Quiz - an online quiz your child can do.
Safer kid - currently reviews apps for iPhone, iPod and iPad as well as for Android. They rate all kinds of apps, but prioritize apps that endanger children.
Common Sense Media - independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music.
Educational cartoon - suitable for children aged 5 – 7 years old.
Internet safety tips - for children aged aged 3 - 5 years old.
Internet safety tips - for children aged 6 - 8 years old.
Office of the eSafety Commissioner (for Australian residents) - report cyber bullying, illegal content and image-based abuse.
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (for US residents) - information on online exploitation and file a report to CyberTipline.
Kids Helpline - Australia’s only free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.
ThinkUKnow - A partnership between the Australian Federal Police, Commonwealth Bank, Microsoft and Datacom and delivered in partnership with all State and Territory police and Neighbourhood Watch Australasia. The cyber safety presentations sensitively cover a range of topics including sexting, cyber bullying, online child exploitation, online privacy, and importantly what to do when something goes wrong. Presentations are aimed at parents, carers and teachers and young people from grades 3-12.