Today, we share some words of advice from him on how to keep kids safe - and a lot of it has to do with us parents performing due diligence when it comes to internet access - via computers and smart devices.
There are a plethora of apps out there children get a hold of. Snapchat, Tinder, Tango, and KiK are a few. The purpose of these apps are not bad, but can be dangerous if children do not know how to use them. These apps are designed not only communicate with people, but to share media as well. Some of these apps even allow GPS location so people can "meet" up.
I will start with the most common app, Snapchat. Snapchat is an application used on mobile devices. This application allows the user to send a photograph to someone on their friends list. After a certain amount of time the photograph is supposed to be deleted automatically. These photographs generally are fun in nature, however I have worked many cases were children would begin taking nude photographs of themselves. This is also called sexting.
Sexting not only puts your child's nude photograph on the Internet, there are applications that will capture the photo/video without letting the user know their photograph was captured. I have seen these photographs spread around their schools. Not only does this lead to bullying, but also a predator may get this photograph.
In extreme cases a predator my even extort your child in taking more photographs or even setting up a meeting with your child. Extortion is a common tactic used by predators to feed their desire for a sexual purpose. I have seen children even agree to sexual favors in preventing the nude photographs from being sent.
Another application I have noticed is chat apps such as KiK, Tinder, Meetme, and Tango. These applications integrate with your contacts and allow text messaging to occur over the Internet instead of text messaging plans. These apps also allow new people to search out your child's profile and contact them. I have seen children being approached by adults and adults pretending to be kids. Again the same scenario can happen above.
What can we do to prevent this? Over my time as an ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) investigator, I have come up with a list:
1. Go through your child's devices and examine their apps.
Have them explain what the purpose of the app is and explain their friends on their friends list. If they do not know them, they should not be talking to them.
2. Use the parental features on the mobile device and/or computer. This allows the parents to monitor their child's activity and see what they are doing. A bit of research and a parent can find a good parental application.
3. Some apps are not for children, any application where the design is to "meet" people is not safe. There are many predators out there that will exploit your child to feed their desire.
4. Look for photo vaults on the child's computer or mobile device.
A photo vault is an app that appears to be something else such as a calculator or flash light. Once the correct key combination is pressed the app will unlock and show you the hidden photographs. I have seen the calculator fake app as the most prevalent. Again if you are unsure of the application, research it or take it to the local police department for inspection.
5. Remember, be aware on what your child is doing, if they are acting depressed or withdrawn take a look on their device. Usually a parent can figure out what a child is doing by examining their phone/computer.
I have arrested over 100 predators in my 3 years assigned to this unit and found that if a parent would follow these steps above, most incidents would be avoided. Never worry about prying in your child's life, after all that's what our job as a parent is, to protect our children!