Anyone can be catfished. Anyone.
Teens, however, are more susceptible than others to be catfished because they are more vulnerable and less likely to be suspicious of a stranger’s motivation for reaching out to them online.
Before I dive in to the ins and outs of catfishing, it’s important to understand what it is and how it happens.
Typically, a catfish is someone who has created an online persona that is fake.
From the photos to the friends, the profile isn’t real. The goal of someone who is a catfish: to trick someone for some sort of personal gain. They may catfish for amusement and enjoy toying with people. But, more often these people are setting out to groom and lure a kid into a compromising situation. It doesn’t take much when the kids live online.
I had a case I worked through with a colleague where a freshman in college was catfished. He was in a virtual relationship and very quickly, the person he was with wanted to come and visit. So, he sent money for them to come and was told the bus broke down. The person never showed up, and several months later they asked him for more money to help cover hospital bills for a sick aunt. By the time the virtual relationship ended, the student had depleted his entire college budget.
Who is at risk to be catfished
While teens definitely run the risk of being catfished, I want everyone to remember that anyone can fall victim to someone who is a catfish. Any time someone goes online into a social setting — whether it’s social media, chat rooms or online games — there is a risk of being catfished when we are looking for companionship, acceptance, etc.
In teens, the most typical person being catfished is someone looking for a relationship. The predator will get a teen to reveal vulnerable data and then quickly prey upon them.
How can you keep your kids from being catfished
When it comes to catfishing, the most important thing to understand is what catfishing is and that it happens all the time to people. Many have the belief it won’t happen to them, but that attitude can get them into trouble because it most definitely can occur.
Is someone reaching out to your teen who is a friend of a friend on social media, but they don’t know each other in real life? Have a conversation with your kids about if they really know who the person is and discuss why this person would talk to a complete stranger online.
Is your teen talking to someone online that continues to break promises? If someone keeps making plans to meet and doesn’t, they could be catfishing your child.
Does the person talking to your teen have a lot of photos of themselves with various people? If there are only a few photos of the person, chances are the account is fake.
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