UKnowKids, a company that helps parents monitor what their kids are doing on the web and with mobile phones, is on a mission to educate parents and children about the dangers of “SWAT-ting.” The term, which gets its name from SWAT, as in “special weapons and tactics,” is when someone activates an emergency response as a prank.
In an email, Unknowkids Vice President Steve Woda, wrote that “many SWAT-ters use a service like Spoofcard to disguise the origin of the prank call which allows them to change their voice and add background sound effects.” He pointed out that “teens who engage in online gaming, chat rooms or social media may be at risk” of having the cops show up at their house because of a SWAT attack by a prankster.
Wooda points out that “certain calls could cost law enforcement up to $10,000 and that legislators are currently working on a law that will make SWAT-ting a four-year felony.” Parents need to warn their kids that SWAT-ting is a dangerous game that could put lives at risk and get them into serious trouble.
TMZ reported that police recently showed up at the home of actress Miley Cyrus after someone reported a home invasion and possible shots fired. The police dispatched a helicopter and surrounded the house in what must have been a very expensive and potentially dangerous waste of use of taxpayer funds. Police told TMZ that if someone were hurt or killed because of the practice, the caller could face felony charges.
A bit of perspective
Although SWAT-ting is disturbing, it’s not an epidemic so let’s not unleash yet another technopanic. Just because it’s happened doesn’t mean that lots of kids are doing it. Still, it’s one more thing to talk with your kids about to make sure they understand that sending the police on a wild goose chase is itself a serious crime.