If you have access to social media, then chances are you saw the recent posts about a missing and endangered Michigan teenager who was being searched for by the Michigan State Police. Law enforcement has located her in Iowa, although the story that led to her disappearance and rediscovery is an interesting one.
MSP issued an endangered missing persons advisory for 16-year-old Joy Dene Martin on Monday, after she went missing on Saturday, March 18th, 2017. She was described on the bulletin as being 5’6 in height, weighing 180 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes and a diamond stud nose piercing. She was believed to have left home voluntarily after getting to know someone on the app ‘Kik.’ Her last known location was listed as Saugatuck.
Police say that Joy packed a number of her belongings, mostly clothing, into bags before leaving her home in Fennville, Michigan. It was suspected that she took a Greyhound bus and left the state. Though because the person she had been talking to on Kik was anonymous, no one was sure where she had gone, or if she would come back.
The same day as the endangered missing persons advisory was released, on Monday March 20th, Joy was located several states away. She was found in the evening on Iowa State University campus in Ames, Iowa. There is very little information available right now about why Joy chose to leave home without notifying friends and family, or about who she was in contact with on Kik when she left. MSP detectives say that they are still investigating the situation.
This case once again raises the issue of social media and it’s use by teens and other minors. According to MSP authorities, this serves as a reminder to parents that it is important to be aware of their children’s social media use. Kik in particular is something that parents need to pay attention to, as it offers its users complete anonymity, which can be a very scary thing from a parental perspective!
Kik has already made news headlines in other tragic situations. The case of Nicole Madison Lovell, a liver transplant and cancer survivor from Blacksburg, Va. who was abducted and murdered by a man she met on Kik. Although Kik cooperated with the ensuing investigation, it has come under fire from law enforcement for going to greater lengths than most apps in shielding its users, often making it very hard for investigators to identify users.
Kik works just like text messaging, but it is completely private. In fact, one of the reasons that so many teens prefer it is because it allows its users to share messages over the internet without leaving a digital trail. In other words, there is no way for a parent to know that their child is accessing wifi to send messages.
Kik has been ties to multiple kidnapping, child pornography and assault cases involving minors over the last few months. Although the company has made an effort recently to overcome some of their negative press by sponsoring an annual conference on crimes against children, and keeping a law enforcement guide on its website, these items are mere drops in the bucket when it comes to keeping kids safe.
As parents who love your children and are concerned for their safety, we encourage all of our readers to be aware of their children’s social media use. Unsupervised online activity can be very dangerous for minors as it exposes them to possible predators, cyberbullying, and a number of other issues. In addition, it can open the family to police and CPS investigation if a child is harmed, kidnapped, or assaulted. Ultimately, no one wins!