NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Most parents think they have taught their children about social media and stranger danger, but for some, the message is not getting through.
A CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, some parents allowed professional prankster Coby Persin of Clifton, New Jersey conducted what he called a “child predator social experiment.” With their parents’ permission, he said he made a fake profile on Facebook posing as a 15-year-old boy, and sent friend requests to three girls ages 14, 13 and 12.
Would the three girls he contacted meet him all alone? Each time, the answer was yes.
The first girl — Mikayla, 13 – talked with “Jason Biazzo,” as Persin called himself in his fake profile, for a couple of days before they made plans to meet in a park. She shows up to the park to meet Persin – only for her father to pop out of hiding and yell, “Mikayla, are you crazy? Are you out of your mind? You could have been raped! He could have been a pedophile!”
Persin goes on to reveal himself, and tell Mikayla she should not talk to strangers online.
In another scene, Persin sets up a meeting with a 12-year-old girl named Julianna – making plans to meet her when her father falls asleep. Julianna’s father is actually with Persin in a van in a car and walks up to his home with Persin.
“What’s wrong with you?” he says as Julianna opens the door expecting “Jason Biazzo.” “How can you do this?”
In the third scene, Persin as “Biazzo” talks online, by text and by phone to a 14-year-old girl named Jenna. He tells her his brother will pick her up in a van, but in fact, her parents are in the back of the van wearing masks – and grab her before they reveal themselves.
“What would have happened if you came out, and it wasn’t us sitting back here, and there were crazy people back here?” her mother says.
The tactic is tough and drastic, and it is getting people’s attention.
“Twenty-one million views in two days,” Persin told CBS2’s Carlin.
Persin found the parents with a Craigslist ad.
“We approached them in a very professional manner,” he said.
CBS2’s Carlin watched the video with child psychologist Susan Bartell.
“It’s really showing parents that this could happen to anybody,” she said.
But Bartell was not surprised.
“From my own personal clinical experience, many, many girls will go with strangers into potentially dangerous situations,” she said.
Bartel wants parents and kids to watch the video together and then the parents lay down the law.
“The rule is you don’t go anywhere alone with a stranger,” she said. It doesn’t matter how tempted to. It doesn’t matter how much attention they’re giving you.”
Some said the parents went too far.
“A little bit drastic,” said Clarissa Mendez of Midtown.
But Persin said the parents did everyone a favor.
“I think they are heroes,” he said.