#childpredator | Tips for protecting children in an increasingly connected, trackable world | Free

Smart devices aren’t just infiltrating our homes and workplaces — they’re also finding their way into schools, playgrounds and anywhere else children and teens take their phones, tablets and laptops. A new report by the nonprofit Common Sense Media has found that more than half of U.S. kids have their own smartphone by age 11. By 14, teens are just as likely to have a smartphone as adults.

That means children and teens are increasingly exposed to the dangers of the internet, especially if parents haven’t taken advantage of parental controls on the devices they use.

Although most parents wouldn’t dream of leaving their child in a room full of strangers with the door shut, that’s the equivalent of what happens when children and teens have unfettered access to the internet, Paris Police Chief Bob Hundley said.

“Social media, especially those in which messages are there for only a short time, are the dangerous areas,” Hundley said.

Cyberbullying and cyber predators rank among the greatest concerns when allowing children to get online. Internetsafety101.org says 90% of teens on social media have ignored bullying if they’ve seen it, and one-third have been victims themselves. Children can be mocked in social media exchanges or on games their characters can be attacked, Hundley said. He advises parents to talk with their children and help them learn how to stand up to bullies.

It’s also important that children know they can come to their parents if someone asks them to do something they know they shouldn’t, like sending inappropriate photos or asking them to meet in person. Hundley warns that predators are fond of using chat services and online games that appeal to kids in order to gain and abuse their trust.

New Jersey residents were shocked in September 2018 when law enforcement in an operation codenamed “Operation Open House” arrested 24 men accused of attempting to groom children for sex using mobile apps. Among the apps used were Kik, Scout, Whisper and Grindr.

Although none of the arrested men were using online games, a spokesman for the state’s attorney general said defendants in prior cases had used popular games like “Fortnite” and “Minecraft.”

Hundley said children don’t have a full understanding of social boundaries, and they may post personal information they shouldn’t. The recommendation: Remind your kids that if you can see their information, so can others and because there’s no delete key on the internet, anything that’s put out there is nearly impossible to remove.


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