AURORA, Colo. -- Three girls who left Denver to join ISIS in Syria were stopped just in time, thanks to some tweets they made about their plans.
Experts say social media, alert teachers and parents all played a role in getting the three teens back home safely.
Social media probably manipulated the girls into going to begin with. ISIS websites with slickly produced videos promising romance and a great adventure target teenage girls in America for recruitment.
The girls in this case were stopped in part after their friends did the right thing after receiving alarming tweets.
School officials believe the three girls, ages 15, 16 and 17 were convinced to go to Syria by the ISIS online propaganda.
They were victims of a new twist on an old crime.
"Based on everything we know right now they were victims of an on line predator," says Cherry Creek Schools spokeswoman Tustin Amole.
English speaking women in Syria create posts that are aimed specifically at teen girls. They make joining ISIS look like a romantic, heroic adventure.
"They are promising them husbands and children. They're showing them pictures of these pretty houses they'll get to live in," Amole says.
FBI Director James Comey visited Denver recently. He says the ISIS reality is nothing like that. "These people make normal terrorists sound civilized."
The teens, who flew out of Denver International Airport, were intercepted by the FBI in Germany before they could complete their trip to Syria.
"My understanding is many of these women are being raped, beaten, enslaved, even killed and whatever fate awaited them was averted," Amole says.
The school district says that's in large part because friends alerted the principal at Overland High School about alarming tweets from the three girls. Additionally, the school had already called the parents when the trio did not show up for classes on Friday.
"We are told that had we not called home and let the parents know they might have been able to complete their journey and that quite likely saved their lives," Amole says.
Parents are reminded that there are people out there who won't hesitate to prey on vulnerable teenagers. It's more important than ever to monitor kids' Twitter, Facebook, other social media, computer and smart phone use.