As academic terms wind to a close and we look forward to the next ones, there has been an increase in the number of social media posts from people seeking tutors. The following ad is fictional, but most of them are similar in content and form:
My son is in ninth grade. He needs a tutor for this English class he has to take starting in January. Is anybody available that can help us, or do you know someone you trust?
New academic terms can also mean new daily and weekly patterns and schedules. A child’s ride to school or an adult’s new class may prompt them to post something like:
Caretaker needed for my disabled sister who lives with me. I would only need someone to come in and stay with her for an hour while I get my kids from school. Is there anyone who provides these services?
What the people who write these do not realize is that posting things like this is dangerous. And should someone point out how dangerous this behavior is in a comment, the likely response is a series of excuses. Let’s examine each excuse, and look at why this type of online behavior is still dangerous, no matter how offended someone might get when another person points that out.
“I’m going to meet the person who responds in public. Meetings will either take place outside my home, or I will get to know the person before inviting them to my home.”
This is certainly safer than inviting anybody who replies to you into your home right away, and if you do need to arrange to meet a stranger, you want to meet them in public. But simply meeting someone in public does not make this post safe. Hanging out with somebody having lunch or coffee a time or two does not guarantee the person is safe to invite into your home to tutor or care for your family member. Dangerous people are perfectly capable of making a few good impressions.
Keeping all meetings to a public place, including having all tutoring occur in public, with a child’s parent present, would certainly be the safest option once a post like this has already been made, but it is still not safe. You still don’t know who it is that you brought into your family’s life, and there is nobody else involved who can pick up on red flags or supervise the situation. It’s just you, your child, and the person you found on the internet.
“My friend found a wonderful tutor this way. The person even grew to be a family friend. Everybody on the internet is not up to no good.”
This may indeed happen to you. The person who responds to your post might just be the perfect person for the job. They may even be a future friend. Things often do work out for the best, and there are just as many great people online as there are dangerous people online.
There is just one problem left. The amazing person who answered your ad is far from the only person who read it. The second you posted your ad, you just let everyone who happened to scroll past it know your name, where you live, something about you or your child, and the insight that you tend to be a bit overly trusting (to make that post in the first place).
“It’s okay. I checked out their profile page. They really do have the job they say they have, and they’re married with kids of their own.”
Every dangerous person does not live alone in that house everybody else thought was abandoned out on the edge of town. Some of the most dangerous people in America have had jobs, spouses, clean houses, nice cars, kids of their own, cute pets, and crowds of friends. And that’s assuming what you see on their page truthfully reflects their life offline. Photos and other details can easily be stolen and altered slightly, and then claimed by someone else.
“This may be true in New York City, or in L.A., or over in that other part of town. But things like that don’t happen where I live.”
Statements like this are absolutely ridiculous. There are dangerous people everywhere, whether we associate that place with danger or not. But even if it’s true, even if your neighborhood, or your hometown, is the one place in America that produces absolutely no bad people, and is so amazing that the bad ones who try to settle there are always discovered and run out of town, those bad interlopers who don’t belong in your area are still around for the brief period of time they manage to remain undetected. You still need to take safety precautions against them.
“I have to find somebody this way. I don’t have the money to hire somebody from some fancy agency or company.”
Look for nonprofits in your area that offer the service you need. People who work for you through a registered nonprofit will have been subjected to a background check. They will have supervisors. They will be required to keep records of all interactions with you or your family member, and submit these records to someone else for review.
If this is not possible for whatever reason, at least find someone through a person or organization you know and trust both offline and online, instead of taking your chances with a social media post. Speak to the student services advisor at your school, the guidance counselor at your child’s school, your child’s teacher, or your pastor about the service you need. They may be able to recommend an online tutoring service, or know of a smaller program or a safe individual who can help you.
“You don’t have to worry about me. My life experiences have made me smart enough and tough enough to tell when someone is dangerous and tell them to get lost.”
You may indeed be the smartest and toughest person you know. But most dangerous people don’t play on our intellect, they play on our emotions. Dr. Robert Hare is an expert on psychopaths. He literally “wrote the book” on the topic, and is the author of numerous non-fiction books about coping with the world’s most dangerous people. He has noted in at least one of these books that even he has been manipulated by some of the people he has interviewed. But even if you are indeed “smarter” than the guy who made studying the psychology of dangerous people his life’s work, you are still not out of danger here. The person you brought into your life, instantly realized was dangerous, and quickly attempted to remove from your life could be the type of person who responds to being discovered with harmful behavior.
“Quit being so negative. I surround myself with positivity, and only bring positive things into my life.”
Excuses like this are just some of the many reasons why the law of attraction, or believing in “positivity” and “negativity” and “personal energy” is so dangerous. We become so enamored of our own “energy,” we allow it cloud our common sense. And honestly, if your mind truly had these powers, if you truly could just “spread positivity” and “banish negativity” to get what you want in life, you wouldn’t be in a situation that made you think you needed to post an ad like the one you posted in the first place. If “positivity” is all it takes, just adopt a “positive” outlook about your lack of childcare, or your child’s difficulties in school, or whatever issue you’re facing, and it will all be fixed with no other action on your part.
“I’m a Christian. I pray before everything I do, and let the Holy Spirit guide my actions. He will lead me to the right person.”
I am a Christian too. I pray before everything I do as well. I prayed before I wrote this article, and was led to write it, because there are people out there who need to read it. The Holy Spirit will indeed guide you and watch over you. But the presence of God, of our Lord Jesus Christ, in your life does not mean we do not still live in a sinful world. There is still greed, violence, deceit, and hate out there. And Jesus never promised that following Him meant we would never encounter it, just that He would be with us when we did.
And no matter how much we pray, we are also flawed. God answers all prayers, but our human ears don’t always listen to the answers, and our human minds don’t always process things correctly. You pray to Him to lead you to a safe person. He responds by sending you the message that the one across from you right now is not to be trusted. You may listen. Or you might mistake whatever reaction He sent you as paranoia after reading this article or watching too many crime shows, and fail to follow His guidance. Pray…and then go through a trusted source to find the service you need.
Whether you need tutoring, a caretaker, or some other service, help is out there. Just don’t bring additional problems into your life trying to solve it. Take that extra step to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
by Jess Szabo originally published on Artist Cafe Utica www.artistcafeutica.com