Catfish, Catfishing and Teens

Catfish: Someone who pretends to be someone else, especially on the internet.

Catfishing: Hiding who you really are to lure someone into an online relationship.

It is very easy to fake who you are online. It is quite simple to create a fake profile on various social media sites, such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. As of May 2018, reported that 83 million Facebook accounts are fake. And while Facebook is not the most popular social media app for teens these days, 51% of U.S. teens, say they still use Facebook.

Catfishing is simply another form of online bullying. A teen can act as an imposter, befriend or seduce their target, get lots of information and photos, then, turn around and use it all just to humiliate and embarrass whomever they choose to target. Or the teen can pretend to be the victim and post mean, hurtful or inappropriate things in the target’s name in order to destroy their reputation.

Recently, a Connecticut high school student faced charges after “catfishing” nearly twenty people online, many of them teenagers, posing as a young girl in order to convince them to send naked pictures and iTunes gift cards, according to police. The victims sent nude photos of themselves via Snapchat, he took a screenshot of the photos and threatened to use the photos against them.

There have actually been quite a few cases in which teens and adults who created fake profiles, were later charged with defamation and emotional distress. This form of cyberbullying does have consequences.

We’ve compiled a list of tips to share with your teens to keep them safe from a Catfish Scheme:

  • Don’t give strangers ANY personal information online, including: your full name, address, where you go to school, where you work, or who your mom and dad are.
  • Don’t post ANY questionable pictures of yourself, including ones from sleepovers, the beach, your vacation.
  • Don’t meet anyone you’ve met online ALONE. Always tell an adult if you are meeting someone new and have two groups of friends meet in a public setting. There is never ANY reason for two people to meet alone
  • Search the internet for strangers befriending you online. Google them and search other social media sites under them same name to make sure they are an actual person.
  • There is no such thing as the perfect person. If it looks too good to be true then it probably is.
  •  Check out his/her pictures. People usually have a variety of pictures with family and friends with tags and comments. Catfishers, on the other hand will use more professional photos and usually the same photos over and over.
  • Follow your gut instinct. If something seems off, stop communicating. Your safety is what matters most.
  • Most sites encourage users to report inappropriate online behavior. Report abuse, unwanted contact and inappropriate content.

At Project B3, we know that it is easy to read these articles and think, “My son/daughter is too smart to fall for this.” Or, “My teen knows better.” But, teens can be very vulnerable and overly trusting. They can easily fall into the trap of a bully or worse yet, a sexual predator. Here is a startling statistic that Dr. Jennie Noll, the director of behavioral medicine and clinical psychology at Cinncinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found in a recent study she conducted: 30% of teenage girls have met up with a stranger in person after initially meeting them online. That number alone should convince you to at least start an open dialogue with your preteen or teen, male or female, about who they are communicating with online.