SOUTH ARKANSAS (KTVE/KARD) 4/16/21 — There are predators out there attempting to exploit your kids through social media but are you aware of it?
One teen shares her experience of how it could have happened to her in hopes to help someone else before it’s too late.
JennaKate Buchler is your average teen. Her dad, Michael, says she’s a superb student-athlete. She has a 4.0 grade point average and is a member of the girl’s soccer team at her school.
She has an outgoing personality and can light up a room with her laughter and smile. Though, there are times when she’s away from parental control when she doesn’t make the right choices.
“I met this guy last year,” she said. “We were best friends at first and then it ended up leading on to a relationship.”
Buchler says it’s someone she met around town. The two exchanged numbers and their relationship blossomed from there.
She says she began to sneak out of the house to meet this man who was about four years older than her.
At 15, some would say that’s not much of an age difference but for Buchler’s dad, he says it was very disturbing.
“At that point, she wasn’t living here. You try to be present and proactive. It’s very frustrating. Now, we have control of the subject matter at hand,” Buchler’s dad said.
Buchler says she would primarily meet guys on social media but what her dad says concerned him the most was the sexual content she was being exposed to on some of the sites.
That’s when Buchler’s freedoms were swiped away.
“It was very hard to deal with. It was very hard to understand that I couldn’t just go out and be with my friends every night,” she said.
Although Buchler never came in contact with a predator online, her dad says she couldn’t risk the chance of this leading to something more. So, he decided to take action.
“It’s always there. You never know. Maybe one time it is her friend. Maybe next time it isn’t,” he said.
There have been many children and teens who have been targeted by older adults through social media.
Just last year, the Ashley County Sheriff’s Office says investigators arrested at least 15 people in one sting operation. The officers posed as children to track down these predators who are looking for trouble through these social media sites.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says investigators at at her office are trying to stay ahead of the latest online and apps and technologies but parents also have to know what their child is doing on the internet.
“These young children as young as 2nd and 3rd graders have access to this material. They need to get ahold of their child’s phone, open up every single app and know how to use it,” Attorney General Rutledge said.
That’s exactly what Buchler did with his daughter for her safety. He and his wife checks her phone daily and she also has a curfew with her phone where she has to “turn it in” at a certain time each night.
Buchler says he even downloaded an app himself called Bark. It is a mobile app where parents can monitor their child’s content, screen time and filter websites.
Parents receive alerts on their phone when something “problematic” occurs online, according to the company.
“Sexual material. Curse words. You can set it up to whatever you want to edit out. Say they text a curse word to their friend or something it’ll pop up on their phone of them cussing or whatever the case may be,” Buchler said.
While Buchler says it wasn’t hard for him to get stern with his daughter, it’s something other parents struggle with but Yolanda Martin, owner of Resolutions Behavioral Health Services, says parents have to be open and patient with their children.
“I was talking to a parent this morning and she was like they’re always doing this and they’re always doing that and it just drives them crazy,” Martin said. “They’re kids. They don’t have the thought process that you have. You have to understand that. At the end of the day if you want them to be comfortable talking to you.”
Gabrielle Phifer: After the incident has happened. How can parents keep a good relationships with their kids to where their kids aren’t avoiding them in fear?
“You have to meet them where they are,” Martin said. “What I mean by that is get on your level. Try to understand the things they are involved in. Immerse yourself into their vernacular.”
Buchler says she still has struggles but she’s beginning to understand the consequences of her actions. Now, she want to help other young children and teen girls before something happens to them that they can’t take back.
“It’s never okay to put yourself in a situation where you know you can hurt yourself or other people,” she said.
Gabrielle Phifer: “Do you have regrets?”
JennaKate Buchler: “Oh plenty. A lot of regrets. almost everything I’ve done but I just have to understand that that was the past and I can’t change it all I can do is do better.”
Gabrielle Phifer: “What’s your advice for girls like her?”
Yolanda Martin: “When you are at that age. Everything looks good. It feels good and a lot of times your priorities aren’t where they need to be because you’re a child so you’re not mature enough. You don’t have the mindset of what’s going to happen 5 or 10 years down the road. If you value yourself and love yourself first and listen to your inner self. There’s always going to be something on the inside of you that tells you if something is right or wrong. Go with your first mind.”
Buchler admits there were signs with his daughter that he missed. Though, they have an open relationship he encourages other parents to never be afraid of approaching their kids with difficult conversations.
“Be firm. Steady. Constant. Consistent,” he said.
If you or your child would like to seek individual or family therapy session, you can contact Martin at 870-500-2324.