11-year-old boy drove 200 miles to meet a man from Snapchat

(CHARLESTON, SC)- Charleston Police reunited an 11-year-old boy with his family after he drove alone from Simpsonville to Charleston.

While out on patrol in his police cruiser around 12:30 AM, Officer Christopher Braun noticed a motorist who pulled next to him at 1300 Rutledge Avenue. The driver was an 11-year-old boy and the sole occupant in the vehicle. The child told Officer Braun he had just driven three hours from Simpsonville and was lost.

The minor child told the officer that he had taken his brother’s car and drove to Charleston to live with an unknown male he had met on Snapchat. The child had his father’s Insignia tablet guiding him on GPS and it lost signal that was directing him to the Charleston address. Upon losing the GPS signal, the child lost the address and was unable to recover it because Snapchat messages disappear after being read automatically in the system.

Snapchat servers are designed to automatically delete messages sent in a one-on-one chat after both Snapchatters have opened the messages and left the private chat. Snapchat Support said in a recent article, “messages can be set to delete after 24 hours by changing the erase rules in Chat Settings. Snapchat servers are designed to automatically delete all unopened chats after 30 days.”

Snapchat has a minimum age requirement of 13-years-old as a part of compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). When you download the app, Snapchat does ask for a date of birth, and if a child under the age limit is truthful, they will be redirected to the kid version called, “SnapKidz.” Charles E. Francis of Charleston PD said this afternoon that “as far as we know it was just Snapchat.” The app the child was using was not SnapKidz.

Francis said in a brief phone interview Tuesday afternoon that CPD is still in process of analyzing the tablet device the child had with him to find out more about the location and person he was headed to.

The boy gave Officer Braun his name, his father’s name and his father’s telephone. The father and his other son drove to Charleston to pick up his 11-year-old son and the vehicle said Charles Francis, the PIO of Charleston PD.

A good guide explaining how Snapchat works for parents can be viewed here.

Parents are urged to review internet safety tips for their children here.

 

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