Virginia teen Nicole Madison Lovell suffered the same teenage angst as many 13-year-old girls living in today’s mean world. A liver transplant survivor, she was bullied because of her looks. Red hair and freckles plus a little extra “baby fat” on her frame made her an easy target.
But online, in a world of anonymity—or better yet—a world where you can make yourself into who you WANT to be, instead of who you ARE, Nicole found “friends”. She found people she could flirt with, be bold and confident with, and who would listen to her teenage aspirations and desires.
And one of those people killed her.
Showing the innocence of the child she truly was, Nicole snuck out of her house last Wednesday night, leaving with a bottle of water and a Minions blanket.
Her body was found Saturday January 30th, just across the North Carolina state line.
In what to many is a shocking development, police have arrested an 18-year-old Virginia Tech freshman, an elite athlete who looks great on the outside, for her murder. It is alleged that Nicole met David Eisenhauer of Columbia, Maryland, online, most likely on Kik, an anonymous messaging app that has had law enforcement officials up in arms for the last couple of years. Nicole apparently led an active fantastical life on Kik. This app not only grants anonymity, it allows users to search by age and lets them use photos that aren’t stored on phones. That makes it popular with teens, tweens, and of course, predators.
Lt. James Bacon, head of the Fairfax County Police Department’s child exploitation unit told the Washington Post that Kik is a huge problem in the fight against online predators. “Kik became the latest thing,” Bacon said. “It’s attractive to predators because of its anonymity. You can make a Kik account and you can make yourself out to be anyone you want to be.”
Because Kik is headquartered in Canada, law enforcement officials in the U.S. have an extra challenge gaining their cooperation on cases here in the states.
Nicole’s mother, Tammy Weeks, told the Washington Post she had never even heard of Kik. And moms and dads, do not be deceived: there is NOTHING stopping you or me from becoming just like Tammy Weeks. From becoming the parent of a murdered child. Nothing except our OWN vigilance.
So I am begging you. Be the parent that doesn’t let their kid have a smartphone. Or be the parent that goes through that phone, and your child’s browser history, EVERY night. Be the parent that puts filters on your internet, or a program that sends you an email detailing every site and app your kid looks at. Be THAT parent, and you will be the parent of a child who is NOT the victim of an online predator.
Your kids may hate it. TOO BAD. They’ll thank you later, and I promise, you won’t regret it. Do it for Nicole. Do it for Breck Bednar. And do it for YOUR kid, most of all.
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