ABC7 explores the dangers of social media apps
The advent of smart phones and other technology has led to a surge in the number of apps that help young people meet up - sometimes to have sex. But with these apps come a danger, which has already proven deadly for a young woman in the D.C. area.
"That was my baby...my baby...my baby...," Belinda Lee lamented.
Lee is grieving the loss of her granddaughter, 18-year-old Siohban Lee.
Siohban was fresh out of high school and just days away from starting her medical assistant training. But at 3:30 a.m. Jan 25, she was found shot in the head in Northwest D.C.
Court records say her suspected killer, 21-year-old Alexander Darnell Buckley, told police he met Siohban on a social media site called "Tagged."
"I never heard of Tagged...," said Belinda.
Tagged is one of hundreds of so-called "hookup" or flirting sites that can be downloaded as a smartphone app. Users can log in through Facebook. The site is popular with teens and reports having millions of users. It tells them they can meet new people or maybe even find love.
Buckley denies shooting Siohban, but he told investigators he wanted to have sex with her, court documents state.
While it's not known what Siohban knew about him, Buckley does have a criminal past.
She went to meet him for the first time the night of Jan. 24.
"I truly think that once she met this guy...she realized she made a mistake...," Belinda explained. "She was trying to come home, and he wouldn't let her come home..."
There are other reports of teens around the country encountering danger through hookup sites, like Skout. Last year, three juveniles were raped after meeting men they connected with through Skout.
Belinda says something has to be done, adding "With the cell phone, you cannot keep tabs on them like it was on the internet...because you can block off stuff..."
"Skout and Tagged and a number of these application sites are promoting meeting people...meeting strangers and very bad things can happen," said Donna Rice Hughes, who heads the Northern Virginia-based internet safety group "Enough is Enough."
She says there are steps parents can and should take to protect their teens - even the older ones, staring with their cell phone provider.
"Look to see what their parental control parameters are...use them...get a filter on...get a monitor on," Hughes said. "And look for the opportunity to block apps...because what an app does...is it provides an avenue past your parental controls..."
Belinda also has a warning for parents.
"Be aware...look at your child's cell phone...see what they have on it...see what they're using...," she urged. "You can put your head in the sand all you want to...but you'll have the same situation I have right now...I lost my granddaughter..."
Belinda said she thought about speaking out only at her granddaughter's funeral, but she decided to make her plea to a wider audience.
Click here to learn more about internet safety.