Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

Hi there! I'm Kimberly Yow, a passionate journalist with a deep love for alternative rock. Combining my two passions, I've found my dream job. Join me on this exciting journey as I explore the world of journalism and rock music.

Retired police officer’s viral videos warns parents about what their kids are being exposed to on TikTok

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With millions of children flocking to TikTok to watch, post and share videos, parents are faced with the 21st century task of keeping their kids safe while navigating a unique social media platform. 

Michael Arterburn is focused on using the same platform to solve this problem. 

Arterburn is a retired Louisville Metro Police Officer with 23 years of experience specializing in internet crimes against children. He turned to TikTok during the pandemic after seeing the dangers of the platform firsthand. 

“My son came to me and was like, ‘Dad, look at this,’” Arterburn said. “It was two, maybe 10-year-old little girls twerking and wearing next to nothing on TikTok. There is no way their parents know they’re doing this.” 

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Even Arterburn was unfamiliar with TikTok, but he quickly turned to the site to help relay his message to parents. His account – appearing under the username @purepower34 – has amassed over two million followers and 42 million likes. 

“It was all [about] keeping your kids safe on the internet and what you can do,” Arterburn told Fox News Digital. 

Arterburn’s two decades in law enforcement, paired with his straight-shooting demeanor and occasional lightheartedness – caused viewers to flock to his account. By harnessing an audience on the very platform he is teaching about, Arterburn has managed to reach out and meet parents where their kids already are: TikTok. 

Children between the ages of 10 to 19 account for the largest demographic on the app – 32% according to data released by Wallaroo Media in 2023. As parents and lawmakers add to the growing cries for regulation of TikTok, the need to protect children on online platforms remains increasingly prevalent.

Arterburn also stresses the importance of teaching internet safety from the moment children become aware of the web. 

“I try to explain to parents, you wouldn’t take your kid to a bar and just turn them loose,” Arterburn added. “When you’re doing that, you’re giving the world access to your child. I’m not so worried about my kid going out and getting into some trouble. I’m worried about what’s coming into him, and he’s being exposed to it – and I want to be able to control that.” 

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Data from Statista shows TikTok experiencing notable growth since 2020, with its number of worldwide users increasing from approximately 466 million to 834 million in three years. As the ever-changing landscape evolves online, so are tools that parents can use to monitor their kids’ safety. 

“During [the pandemic], I think there was a huge expansion in kids’ footprint online,” Arterburn told Fox News Digital. “I’ve read where things like depression, something like the BARK phone would intercept. The AI picks it up and says ‘Hey, somebody is either talking to your child about depression or your child is using words or even emojis that mean certain things’, because they stay on top of all that.”

Arterburn also uses his platform to educate parents on the dangers of other social media apps. Snapchat – a platform where users can send disappearing photos and images – poses threats involving drug dealing that Arterburn believes may fly under a parents’ radar. 

“It used to be that you’d have to call somebody,” Arterburn said. “That’s not the case anymore. The fentanyl – the illicit fentanyl – is so bad, it seems like everything’s laced with it now. That’s the one thing that I really worry about, because I’ve made tons of these runs as a cop.”

According to data from the CDC, drug overdose deaths among children between the ages of 14 to 18 increased 94% from 2019 to 2020 and 20% from 2020 to 2021. Arterburn suggests that parents use software to keep an eye on what apps their kids are using and who they are communicating with. 

As Arterburn’s platform grew, he rode the true crime wave to reach new audiences. In 2022, Arterburn used his experience as a police interrogator to make videos analyzing the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial. 

“You kind of have to see what’s trending,” Arterburn said. “When I was watching clips on the Johnny Depp trial, and that’s when my account exploded. People knew that they were detecting certain things in testimony, and I was like, let me tell you why as an interrogator.”

Later that year, four college students were found brutally stabbed to death in their off-campus apartment in Moscow, Idaho. Arterburn harnessed the tragedy to teach parents how to keep their college-age kids safe. 

“I think that it puts it in people’s mind like, ‘Oh, what would I do? This happened here,’” Arterburn said. “If I could do some good and put some parents’ minds at ease [while] they’re off at college.”

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By using real-world examples of highly publicized crime stories, Arterburn captures viewers’ attention. But he stresses that the internet can also fuel unnecessary fear surrounding topics that may not be an actual threat. 

“Some of the myths that are on social media are perpetuated by kids, like human trafficking and marking cars,” Arterburn added. “Putting a zip-tie on your door handle, that’s not a thing. I worked missing persons and crimes against children and I never had a case where somebody had marked a car and then came back to try to traffic that individual. You have to be careful with internet myths. Just because they’re super popular doesn’t mean that they’re true – and things can spread like wildfire.”

As Arterburn continues to grow his platform, his knowledge is constantly evolving to understand how new technology can pose a risk to parents and their children. Currently, he worries about the future of artificial intelligence and how it could impact internet safety. 

“I did a video on the dangers of A.I.,” Arterburn said. “I always say kids are not content, and it’s because of A.I. They can take your child’s image and make [child pornography] and distribute that all over the dark web.” 

Arterburn stresses that this threat is not exclusive to children. 

“What if they stole your teen’s image and made an OnlyFans page,” Arterburn added. “How are they going to get into colleges? These are just things I’m seeing on the news, and I’m thinking like a detective how somebody could use this to harm children.” 

Arterburn has seen firsthand the real-world powers of social media. In 2022, he put out a public plea to his followers asking for donations for those impacted by the eastern Kentucky floods. Within a few days, thousands of people responded by shipping packages to aid the Taylorsville Fire and Police Departments. 

After 23 years of police work, Arterburn continues to serve his community – but now on a much larger scale. He hopes that other professionals and industry specialists will turn to social media platforms to share their knowledge and make a difference. 

“That is something that I scream from the rooftops because if you have some kind of specialty – I don’t care if it’s cleaning, accounting, making food – put that information out there,” Arterburn added. “[Make] videos, be beneficial to your fellow man. This is the information age.”

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