TikTok is turning into a major platform for child sexual exploitation in the United States, according to law enforcement officials, with predatory adults increasingly finding it easier to contact and manipulate minors through the Chinese app.
Since the advent of the internet, child predators have had an easy option to get in touch with minors for sexual relationships. However, TikTok is said to be worsening this problem due to its massive popularity among youngsters. Over 50 percent of American minors are estimated to use TikTok at least once every day. “The audience that’s following these children, a lot of them are adult males that have a sexual interest in children,” Jon Rouse, police veteran who heads a group targeting child sex offenders for Interpol, said to The Wall Street Journal.
“Child sex offenders will gravitate toward where there are children. Pedophiles prefer looking at videos,” he added. Billions of videos are uploaded to the app every month, with numerous minors doing all kinds of things, including talking about personal lives.
TikTok officially only allows individuals who are 13 and older to open an account. Users younger than 16 years are also not allowed to use the direct messaging feature which allows people to converse with each other privately. However, children can still falsify their age and gain access to such features.
For instance, Grady Moffett Sr., 42, is currently in a county jail in Fort Worth, Texas, on charges related to alleged sexual assault. He was able to strike up romantic conversations with a 14-year-old girl.
Both of them professed love for each other in public comments at the platform. The duo communicated with each other using TikTok’s direct messaging feature, he admitted to The Wall Street Journal.
The teen girl’s mother said that the situation was “every parent’s nightmare.” The girl told her mother that she loved Moffett because he understood her. “I felt like he kind of groomed her,” the mother told the media outlet.