Father outraged after his daughter is allegedly targeted online by 35-year-old man

Father outraged after his daughter is allegedly targeted online by 35-year-old man
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge father is sounding the alarm after he says his 8-year-old daughter was allegedly targeted online by a 35-year-old man.

They are troubling to hear, just some of the inappropriate messages Robert Smith said he discovered on his daughter's iPod this week.

"It was like 'how are you, sweetie… oh, you're so sweet… thank you sweet girl'," Smith said. "Very inappropriate stuff... If he could come hang out, if he could do this and that and 'I love watching your dances so much and do you like me and do you think I'm cute'."

Smith said the messages were all sent through an app called "musical.ly."

The app allows users to create lip-sync videos and get comments on how well they perform. He said this guy's comments went a little too far.

"I was very upset... very upset," Smith said. "I can't explain and can't say enough how upset I was when I saw the message."

His initial rage gave way to curiosity as he decided to scroll back through the more than 75 messages. He was shocked when he found out not only had the man allegedly sent pictures of himself but had also convinced the young girl to send him pictures as well.

"The further I went up and then I see her taking pictures and sending it to the guy I'm like oh no... this is a bad deal," Smith added.

Though there was no nudity, Smith immediately called police and also responded to the messages to see how bad things would get. He said it is a wake-up call about the dangers of apps and those willing to prey on young users.

"It's just a whole world of stuff out there that you don't know what your kids are doing when they have these devices and they have the Internet at their access at such a young age," Smith said. "You don't know what they're exposed to."

Smith said this close call is something he hopes other parents will learn from.

"You have to be a helicopter parent these days," he said. "You can't just turn a blind eye to this because there's some very bad people out there. It's just really sad that you know I have to show her what kind of cruel, harsh world this place can be."

Law enforcement is investigating the case. Smith said he hopes this man will be caught as soon as possible.

The company musical.ly released the following statement:

musical.ly prioritizes the safety of our users and strives to ensure that all musical.ly users can enjoy our application without abuse or threats from any other user.  We take appropriate measures to expeditiously remove offensive or inappropriate content from the musical.ly app.  Our users can also block any other user from contacting them and they can report abusive users or communications to us through the application.  Messages from friends are clearly identified from unknown senders so users can tell who is contacting them and can decide whether to engage. We are also implementing machine-learning technology to scan messages to block spam and inappropriate content.

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