Young Children love Instagram. So do predatory pedophiles.
Instagram is hugely popular with children and teenagers, making it a favourite app for predatory pedophiles and child pornographers. First, abusers make a phony account posing as a child (usually a girl) or as a youthful fashion photographer. Next, they will contact children, praising their photos and requesting more images, especially more intimate pics.
“Great pics. We’d love you to model for us,” is often sufficient bait to lure a child, insecure about their looks, into posing for photos. Requests can start innocently but soon devolve into harassment for lewd photos or worse.
In other cases, men in their 20s or older pose as teenage boys on Instagram and groom girls (or boys) by engaging in sexual chats and quickly sharing nude photos before attempting to arrange physical encounters.
The minimum age limit for the photo-sharing site and app is 13, but there is no age verification process, so there are many underage users. The safest thing for a child is to delete Instagram and stop wasting their time scrolling through shallow rubbish that teaches them to aspire to online popularity through expensive fashions and unattainable beauty. Alternatively, they can set their account to private, so they’ll be less likely to be contacted by predators.
According to a recent report by the UK National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), Instagram has become the number one platform for child abusers. Data gained by the NSPCC from British police showed that Instagram’s use by child groomers had more than trebled in a six-month period. Of online grooming offenses recorded by police, 32% were via Instagram, followed by Facebook (23 percent) and Snapchat (14 percent). Girls aged 12 to 15 were most likely to be targeted, although some victims were as young as five.
Closer to home, the Indonesian Child Protection Commission has warned that parents need to improve communication with their children, so that kids don’t end up relying Instagram for telling stories and seeking validation and popularity.
In the East Java capital of Surabaya, a freelance driver posed online as a professional photographer in order to meet with high school girls, one of whom he allegedly raped.
Aditya Fernanda (20) began trawling Instagram in 2018, looking for accounts of schoolgirls. He would send messages announcing paid modelling jobs. One of his messages read: “Model needed for location shoot, if interested call…. Fee 1 million, shooting at a Majapahit Hotel.”
When girls agreed to meet, he would pick them up at their houses, claiming he wanted to drive them to locations for photo shoots. Police said Aditya, using a rented car, took a 17-year-old girl to Kenjeran Beach area, where he threatened her at knifepoint, raped her four times and stole her mobile phone. They said he also took a 15-year-old girl to the same location, molested her and stole her phone before she escaped.
Some dukun (shamans) have taken to Instagram to offer their often-insidious services to the unwary. In July 2018, a 24-year-old dukun named Dede Lesmana began contacting women via the app, claiming his supernatural powers could transform them into celebrities and make them irresistible to men.
If a woman believed his claptrap, he would ask her to meet at an apartment. He would then instruct her to perform a ritual to attract men. First, she had to undress. Next, she had to consume a drink or food that rendered her unconscious. Then the dukun would rape her.
Dede allegedly raped at least four women. His victims were from Jakarta, as well as Bandung and Cikarang in West Java. He had expected they would be too embarrassed and ashamed to report him. One of the women went to police in March 2019 and the dukun was arrested.
He now faces up to 12 years in jail if convicted of rape under Article 285 of the Criminal Code. He could also be charged under Article 286, which carries a maximum prison term of nine years for “any person who out of marriage has carnal knowledge of a woman whom he knows is unconscious or helpless.”
There are numerous dukun using Instagram to offer an array of services, such as success in romance, politics and business. One has posted a series of testimonials, supposedly from satisfied customers, such as a woman declaring his magic made her husband leave his second wife and return home. Another is from a young woman, who says the magic prompted her boyfriend to dump his wife and choose her instead. Then there’s one from a woman thanking the dukun for helping her to pass the civil service entrance exam.
Gullible superstition aside, Instagram is used on a more sinister level in Indonesia by people peddling child porn and prostitution services. If Instagram wanted to stop this stuff, it could simply delete all account names that use local pornographic terms. But instead, it allows such obscenity flourish.
As Instagram soars in popularity among children, Facebook is viewed by many kids as uncool because it is “for parents and other adults.” However, plenty of young people do use Facebook, putting themselves at risk of being contacted and groomed by predators if their account settings are not at maximum privacy.
Irma (not her real name), a 14-year-old girl from East Java, was befriended via Facebook by a 20-year-old man, Danu Asmara Aji.
Danu invited her to meet him at 7pm on March 21 at Kota Park in Krian, Sidoarjo regency. Irma drove there on her motorcycle, even though the minimum age for a motorcycle licence in Indonesia is 17.
After a chat at the park, Danu invited her to a house, where three of his friends, aged 19–23, were waiting.
The men plied Irma with alcohol and took turns raping her. Danu then offered to escort the girl home, but on the way, they were stopped by three more friends of Danu. They stole Irma’s motorbike and also raped her.
She later reported to police, who five days later managed to arrest Danu and three other suspects.
Parents concerned about what their kids get up to online could start by setting a good example and not being vain, superficial, sloth-like social media junkies themselves. This will afford much more time for actually playing with their children, rather than each family member being engrossed in their own gadget. Parents could also ensure that children’s accounts are set to private.