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Does Parents' Facebook 'Sting' to Catch Daughter's Sex Offender Boyfriend Go Too Far?

What would you do if you learned that your teenage daughter was dating a registered sex offender? I’m willing to bet most people’s first stop would be the local police station, but that was not the approach taken by two parents in Skagit County, Washington whose 17-year-old daughter continued to see William Elms, a 19-year-old Level 1 sex offender, despite their attempts to end the relationship.

Over the last few years as the popularity of social media has increased, we have seen many ways the various platforms have been used as a parenting tool to both punish and police our youth — from using a Facebook cover photo to shame a teen that talks back, to sharing a youtube video where you put a bullet in your daughter’s laptop — but this latest stunt requires a whole new level of dedication. 

After learning that a teenage family friend was connected to Elms on Facebook and spoke to him regularly, the mother created a pretend profile for a 15-year-old girl named “Ashley.” She then began sending messages to Elms under the guise that “Ashley” was in a conflict with their mutual friend. According to the mother, it only took a day before the conversation turned “dirty, violent, and nasty.” Elms sent the pretend teen lewd photographs, invited the girl to go camping with him with the mention of sexual activity, and asked that the girl lie about her age.

After obtaining all the evidence they needed, the parents turned over the information to the local police department who arrested Elms for a violation of his probation. He is currently being held under $25,000 bail.

While Elms’ actions are certainly deserving of some time behind bars, I hesitate to congratulate these parents on their Chris Hansen style super sleuthing. While no one wants their daughter getting cozy with a sex offender, it seems to me a better approach would be talking with her, putting rules into place and enforcing them, and, if necessary, involving the police. Setting up a fake account and pretending to be a teenage girl is just a little creepy to me.

Do you think these parents went too far?

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