Police are warning parents to speak to their children about their social media use and online safety after an 11-year-old boy drove more than 200 miles to meet another male he had met on the social media messaging site Snapchat.
Charleston Police released a statement exclaiming that officer Christopher Braun was patrolling in his police cruiser when he pulled up alongside the 11-year-old. Noting that the child was the only person in the car, Braun was able to safely pull the child over. The boy explained that he had driven almost 200 miles from Simpsonville to Charleston where he was going to live with a male he had met on Snapchat.
The child told police he had taken his brother's car and was using his father's tablet for directions, but the tablet lost the GPS signal and he found himself lost. The boy gave Officer Braun his father's name and phone number, and Officer Braun reached out. The father was in the process of filing a missing persons report when police contact him.
Charleston Police Chief Luther T. Reynolds spoke to CNN affiliate WCIV and used the situation to implore parents to speak openly with their children about social media and its potential dangers.
"I would love tonight, right now, anybody who's watching this, who is a parent of a child, especially an 11-year-old, to sit down with your 11-year-old, right now, right this moment and have a conversation about what you're doing on social media, the dangers, the benefits, and things that as a parent we need to talk about every day," he said. “The dangers, the benefits, and things that as a parent we need to talk about every day,” he added.
Simpsonville Police Department investigator James Donnelly also spoke out about children safely using social media to WYFF News 4. “You have somebody who’s chatting with an 11-year-old about traveling so we’re very cautious about wanting to make sure children are safe on the internet,” he said.
Thankfully the boy is now safely back with his family and Charleston spokesman Charles Francis spoke to CNN affiliate WSCS and told them that the police have taken the tablet for analysis in hopes of recovering information about the unknown male.