MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – Experts are warning parents about what children could be doing on social media, especially when using apps that aren’t as popular as Facebook or Twitter.
Police in Skagit County allege a father and his son raped a 14-year-old girl after she met the son on an app that's very popular among teens.
Investigators said Adam Kirkby, 21, met the child on an app called Whisper, and then introduced her to his 52-year-old father.
The abuse is alleged to have been going on for four months before the child’s parents found disturbing messages and photos on her phone. That’s when they called police.
“It’s heartbreaking to see that some young girl is being victimized,” said Larry Dargitz Sr.
Dargitz was shocked to learn that his neighbors allegedly sexually abused a girl just a couple of doors down from his Burlington home.
“For something to happen to her at this age, she isn’t old enough to realize the consequences,” he said. “It’s going to follow her for the rest of her life.”
Mark Kirkby, 52, is charged with one count of third-degree child rape, two counts of second-degree viewing depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and three counts of electronic communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
Mark’s son, Adam, is charged with three counts of third-degree child rape, one count of second-degree viewing depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and two counts of electronic communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
Court documents allege Adam Kirkby located the girl on a new smart phone app called Whisper, which touts that users can interact anonymously with nearby strangers.
Child safety expert Kim Estes said, “We are changing the curriculum of apps to watch out for every six to eight months.”
She said that kids usually don’t remain anonymous and sometimes plan to meet with their online friends.
“They think they can get on and disclose how they’re feeling and their fears, and they’re safe,” said Estes. “That is the first misstep is that kids feel safe and they perceive anonymity but it’s not. And we’ve got people out there specifically looking at these apps for these vulnerable children.”
Investigators said that both Mark and Adam knew the girl was only 14 when the abuse began.
Court records say that Mark allegedly told the girl, “No one can know our secret until you’re older.”
Estes suggested that parents should pay close attention to what their kids are doing on their smart phones, even if it means invading their privacy.
“These apps are constantly changing -- and using tools like monitoring software on your child’s phone is super important,” she said.
Both of the Kirkbys pleaded not guilty to the charges. The remain in jail in lieu of $100,000 bail each.