A 20-year-old acquaintance Kyle Dube was indicted with murder and kidnapping in connection with Nichole Cable. From the news reports, he got her to meet up with him by luring her to a remote wooded area under the guise of a fake Facebook account, or what is known as an “imposter profile,” in which she believed she would be meeting the real owner of the Facebook account.
Understandably, situations like these heighten parents’ fears about their children’s safety online. Here are some suggestions on how to broach this topic with your own children.
An imposter profile is when someone creates a fake website or social networking profile in order to deceive the target. In this case, the predator stole the identity of someone Nichole may have possibly known in real life and communicated with her through this imposter Facebook profile. The imposter profile has since been deleted and my understanding is that the FBI fully investigated it.
I have not spoken to the family nor to the police, so I cannot speculate as to why Nichole trusted this man and chose to meet up with him.
What we do know is that predators often “groom” young boys and girls online by befriending them and finding out what they like, what hurts them and what makes them tick in a short amount of time. It’s incredibly easy to find a wealth of information on a teen simply by requesting to be a friend on Facebook. Once the teen accepts the friendship request, the predator looks at what kind of media/music/movies the teen likes, what drives his or her personality and what “angles” they can use to manipulate the impression of having common interests. For example, the predator sees what bands the teen likes on his or her Facebook page and stores that as nuggets of conversational “bread crumbs” by casually mentioning: “Oh you like One Direction? I like One Direction too!” From there, the common interests quickly lead to personal revelations and “heart-to-heart” talks. Pretty soon, the teen feels like he or she has someone special who deeply understands them and might be the only one who knows what they are going through.
What parents/teachers can do.
As upsetting as this situation is, Nichole’s story needs to be told to your teenagers as a talking point. Here is an excellent list of tips in how to guide this conversation.
Meeting People Online: Dos and Don’ts of Online Relationships for Teens
The number one rule I tell teens is “Don’t friend anyone on social media that you don’t already know in real life and trust 100%.” Everything you upload for content can be used against you, whether to “groom” you for nefarious purposes or in cyberbullying situations as content to be repurposed for malicious reasons.
So many teens shrug off this advice thinking, “Oh, she’s being alarmist. It’ll never happen to me.”
It happened to Nichole and that’s why her story needs to be told.
The other suggestion I‘ve repeatedly made to parents is to implement www.uknowkids.com app on your teen’s cell phone, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. This free “parental intelligence system” instantly alerts you via text or email if any keywords your teen and someone else are using contain language around cyberbullying, sexting and predatory grooming. You’ll also know whom exactly your teen has accepted as a friend on social media without compromising his/her online privacy.
If you'd like to know more about how to protect your kids from an imposter profile, along with other tactics, join my free webinar on September 30 12-1 pm (EST.) (Note: there is only room for 10 people, so sign up soon.)
Kay Stephens is the co-author of Cyberslammed: Understand, Prevent, Combat and Transform the Most Common Cyberbullying Tactics, sponsored by Time Warner Cable. She has done dozens of presentations to Maine schools on specific cyberbullying threats, such as imposter profiles and how to understand, prevent, combat and transform them. To see more posts on this topic, visit Kay Stephens on The Pen Bay Pilot.
Five Town Communities That Care is dedicated to promoting healthy youth development and to the prevention of problem adolescent behaviors, including substance abuse, violence, delinquency, school dropout, teenage pregnancy, and suicide.