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What is Catfishing and Why You Should Care

By Parenting Today's KidsJanuary 18, 2013

What is Catfishing?What is Catfishing?

Some parents may be wondering what the term “catfishing” means.  Catfishing is the faking the identity of a person online in order to carrying out a relationship.  Right now, there is a lot of attention in the media surrounding Manti Te’o, star linebacker for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  He was involved in a heartbreaking, frequently publicized relationship with a young woman who lost her battle with leukemia in September…but she didn’t actually exist.  Te’o says he was tricked into believing this nonexistent girlfriend was real.  The media says he was “catfished.”

The term is from the 2010 documentary called, “Catfish.” (Spoiler alert if you want to see the film.) The documentary follows the relationship involving Yaniv “Nev” Schulman, a 24 year old New Yorker, and 19-year-old Megan Faccio from Michigan, which was carried out entirely online and by phone.  However, she did not actually exist.  The entire thing was crafted Angel Wesselman, a bored housewife who spends most of her time talking care of her handicap steps sons.  She took photos of another woman, Aimee Gonzales, and used them to build an online persona for Megan Faccio in order to trick Nev.

In the film, Wesselman’s husband, Vince Pierce, gives this quote: “They used to tank cod from Alaska all the way to China. They’d keep them in vats in the ship. By the time the codfish reached China, the flesh was mush and tasteless. So this guy came up with the idea that if you put these cods in these big vats, put some catfish in with them and the catfish will keep the cod agile. And there are those people who are catfish in life. And they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh. And I thank god for the catfish.”

Urban Dictionary’s most popular answer defines a catfish as “someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.” Getting catfished means you’ve been tricked into thinking someone you’ve met on the Internet is a real person — even though they are completely made up by someone else. “Catfish” the film eventually became “Catfish” the TV show on MTV in 2012.  This show is dedicated to helping people who have been catfished unmask whoever was behind the trickery.

Why You Should Care

Parents need to talk to their kids about this story.  Although it seems painfully obvious, people may not be who they say they are online.  Things and people may not be what they seem.

Earlier this week about 16 Florida law enforcement agencies came together catch child predators.  They made the suspects think they were chatting online with children or parents offering up their kids for sex.  A middle school teacher, a tourist visiting from Turkey, college students, and a businessman from North Carolina were all arrested in a week-long law enforcement operation, which ended Monday, that targeted men seeking sex with children.

One of the men, authorities said, was a Florida high school English teacher who arrived at the decoy home to have sex with a 14-year-old girl.  In all, 50 suspects were arrested. Those arrested ranged in ages of 19 to 60.

The point is there are bad things out there and lurking online. Unfortunately, kids and teens can be lured into unsafe situations because they truly believe they a building relationship with a boyfriend/girlfriend who is a peer, when in reality they could be talking to a predator.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Talk to your kids and share current events like the ones mentioned in this article so that they understand that online trickery is so common place that MTV has an entire show dedicated to it.
  2. Set digital boundaries for your kids online by discussing what is safe and acceptable and what is not.  Don’t take it for granted that they already know, especially if they are pre-teens.  Set these rules/guidelines and then enforce them with consequences you have discussed with them ahead of time.
  3. Use technology to protect your kids by using a monitoring software to have true information about who they are hanging out with online and what they are doing online.


3 Responses

  1. […] not everyone is who they say they are online. Make sure your kids understand what catfishing is and arm them with information so that they do not become […]

  2. […] a post for Parenting Today’s Kids, Lisa Shaw explains why parents need to be aware of the phenomenon and talk with their kids about […]

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