[Fox News] Florida sheriff warns of dangers of social media after 911 prank results in 11-year-old’s arrest

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A Florida sheriff is warning of the dangers of children using social media after an 11-year-old girl arrested for faking a kidnapping claimed it was part of a YouTube challenge.

Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood joined “Fox & Friends” after the girl’s arrest for sending a prank 911 text claiming an armed man had kidnapped her friend and was driving a white van down I-95. Multiple deputies responded and air support was called in to help the search before it was ultimately deemed a hoax.

“We are so far behind the eight-ball on what social media is doing to our children and the path that it’s leading them down,” Chitwood said Friday. “The federal government has to step in and put some type of roadblocks in place.”

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The incident began at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday when the girl texted 911 that her 14-year-old friend was abducted by an armed male driving a white van on South I-95 in Oak Hill.

“She gives us a bogus name that we didn’t know at the time,” Chitwood said. “Her friend was tied up, and the suspect was armed. That triggered a massive response. Helicopters up, at least three other police agencies joined us on scouring I-95. She kept giving us little bits of information and then eventually she calls 911 and says, ‘Oh, I dialed the wrong number.’ That gave us a chance to triangulate the phone to her house.” 

The girl told deputies she got the idea to prank 911 through a YouTube challenge and thought it “would be funny,” according to the sheriff’s office.

Deputy body-worn camera shows deputies speaking to the girl, telling her she needs to use this incident as a learning experience. 

She can be heard telling deputies, “I’m not going to do this again.”

Chitwood warned that taking part in pranks or social media challenges can result in someone being “killed or severely injured.” The sheriff said this is one of the many reasons why parents should be proactive about their children’s social media use.

“Last week we had an incident where a 12-year-old thought she was chatting with a 16-year-old, turned out [he] was a 29-year-old male who forced himself on her,” he said. 

Chitwood said the department has decided to help inform parents by staging road shows throughout the county. 

“We’re begging parents to come,” he said. “We want to inform them and show them what their children are doing on the internet, how you can protect your child and what crimes they can be charged with when they go down this road of following these challenges.”

The girl, who Fox News Digital is not identifying because she is a minor, was charged with making a false police report concerning the use of a firearm in a violent manner, a felony, and misuse of 911, a misdemeanor.

She was later released to her parents on home detention, FOX35 Orlando reported. She was due to appear in court on Aug. 7. 

For more Culture, Media, Education, Opinion, and channel coverage, visit foxnews.com/media

Fox News’ Stephen Sorace contributed to this report

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