Police confiscated 9yo boy's phone in online predator hunt
*Sharni had noticed a big change in her nine-year-old boy's behaviour during the past couple of months.
"He had been so reserved, distracted and not himself the past 6-8 weeks. Always wanting to be alone in his room with the door shut. He rushes to have dinner, do homework or shower so that he can go back to his phone," the NSW mum explains to Kidspot.
When she decided to follow her unshakeable mother's instinct - her entire world came plummeting down in that very instant.
"When I heard his phone beeping in his bedroom while he was in school - I got curious and looked...," Sharni says.
"They used words such as rape, and suicide - and even sent my son photos of how to commit suicide with a rope.
They told my son that everyone close to them had died and all they had was my son. He said they just randomly added him and started talking. He assumed it was a gamer until they told him that this person goes to college to f**k girls."
"When I heard his phone beeping in his bedroom while he was in school - I got curious..." Source: Supplied to Kidspot
"They gained his trust to the point he was saying he loves them back"
The messages were all via an app called Discord, which describes itself as the "easiest way to communicate over voice, video, and text, whether you're part of a school club, a nightly gaming group, a worldwide art community, or just a handful of friends that want to hang out".
"They groomed my son, gained his trust to the point he was saying he loves them back - he was unaware of what he was saying and had no idea about the real dangers of what was happening," Sharni says.
"My son is only 9, but was so confused and thought to say a different age so he told them he was 12 and they very clearly carried on encouraging illegal sexual acts and asking sexually explicit questions.
"My son is a clever well-behaved humble shy boy, who lives in a very safe loved home, so I was devastated at finding this - but they brainwashed him."
"He was so confused and thought to say a different age, so he told them he was 12 ..." Source: Supplied to Kidspot
"I had told my son about stranger danger"
Despite the messages going on for at least six weeks, there was one important piece of information that the young victim withheld.
"Thankfully, I had told my son about stranger danger and to never give out your name to anyone you don't know, so he told them a different name," his mum says.
But this didn't stop the twisted paedophile from continuing to prey on the poor young innocent child.
"The predator asked him to check in with them often, to stay awake past his bed time, to arrange to be home alone, it is absolutely shocking," Sharni says in utter disbelief.
"They were asking the size of his genitals using 'kid-friendly' works like 'pee pee' for penis and 'smooch' for kissing and all other weird comments. It makes me feel so sick - they even somehow got my son to use the word 'rape'.
And they were even ringing him, but he told me he felt uncomfortable so stopped answering if they rang his phone."
"Us, as parents, need to be overprotective because this could have been so much worse." Source: Supplied to Kidspot
"Don't think it won't happen"
The devastated mum went straight to the police station to report the abhorrent incident where officers have seized the phone to investigate that matter further with the child protection unit.
When her son's phone is eventually returned by the police - Sharni will instantly delete all messaging apps and be monitoring her son very closely when he does his homework.
"I am still absolutely distraught at the messages I read. It has most certainly been an eye-opener. It doesn't matter how much we try instil stranger danger into our children - they are so young vulnerable and clueless to sometimes make the right choices even when they know wrong from right," she says.
"Us, as parents, need to sometimes be overprotective because this could have been so much worse. Don't think it won't happen because clearly it does when we least expect it?! People need to be made aware of this.
"I have felt sick to my stomach with worry and I'm constantly checking my son on anything that is digital and linked to the internet/WIFI. I'm going to have my son see a psychologist and will speak to mine as it is very scary."
*Name changed for privacy reasons