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16-year-old missing after meeting older man on social media, family says

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HAMMOND, Ind. — A northwest Indiana teenage girl has been missing for more than a week after her family said she met an older man on social media. Her family is now pleading for information and has an important warning about social media.

Shauna Murphy, 16, has been missing from Hammond since Jan. 5. She is described as 5 feet 2 inches tall and 140 pounds. She has brown eyes, dark hair and a medium build. Her grandmother, Darlene Spencer, said the teen met a 19-year-old man on Instagram.

“Obviously they started up a conversation, and she just got ‘swooned into’ what 16-year-old girls do,” she said. “They are just emotional at 16 and kind of gullible — they fall for anything.”

Most dating apps ban people under the age of 18. So many teens have found a way around those rules by using other the social-media platforms, like Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram to trade romantic messages.

Spencer said the situation illustrates the dangers of digital dating.

"Interact with your children. Don’t let them live on a computer or in front of a phone. Social media is just poison. Young girls and young guys are on there and they’re being groomed, and they don’t even realize it," Spencer said.

Hammond police confirmed they are investigating the case, but not as an abduction. in a written statement, Lt. Steve Kellogg said, "She is a runaway and there are no signs of foul play. We are looking into the fact the she has been dating a male 3 years older than she is, and when her parents would not allow her to see the male, she left a note with her intentions to leave. We are thoroughly investigating, and detectives have multiple tips as to her whereabouts, however, they do not believe she is in danger at this time."

The school superintendent at Murphy's school said she’s also investigating the situation, and wants Murphy to return to class safely and soon.

Anyone with information about her whereabouts are asked to call police.

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