What would your child do? Social media and child predators - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

What would your child do? Social media and child predators

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -

A new study shows that teens spend, on average, about 9 hours on social media each day.

In fact, 13-year-olds can check social media, 100 times in a day.

But who are they talking to and what information are they sharing?

Jean Vaughan, Special Attorney General for Mississippi, says it used to take a predator a long time to groom a child and get the child accustomed to them - to speak their language, to gain a trust. However, that goes faster when you're online, because life is fast.

Here's a shocking reality - teens and tweens have traveled to meet with people they've 'known' only a few hours - via social media or the internet.

And what's even scarier, is that your child's online habits could make them an easy target for predators.

“Sometimes people put things on there like, 'I am going to a place' and they've had a presence online and the person who may have been stalking them or wants to meet them, may meet them there," Vaughan says.

Vaughan is also the commander for the Internet Crimes Against Children unit for the state of Mississippi. Her job is to protect youngsters from online predators. Predators, she says, aren't just strangers.

“Child abuse... which is what this is," Vaughan says. "The online abuse of children, many times, comes from people that that child knows or perhaps a babysitter or unfortunately a coach. Or a minister or a youth group.”

So, how do you keep your child from falling into the hands of an online predator who may be posing as a friend?

Fred Lovett, investigator with the Rankin County Sheriff's Department, says his job is to make sure all 140 plus sex offenders in Rankin County stay compliant.

He says that part of the problem is that parents often have no clue as to what their child's online habits are.

“Juveniles having complete access to the internet with no supervision. I mean every kind of device that they have, iPhone, iPad or even a gaming system and mainly the iPhone or smart phone," Lovett says. "I mean they have complete access to the internet, nobody supervising them and there are all kinds of apps and places you can go. You never know who they may be talking to, or who might be talking to them.”

Some apps are more dangerous than others.

SnapChat, Kik Messenger and Yik Yak can all open the door for a predator to reach out to your child.

Users can post anonymously on many of these apps, hiding their true intentions.

Online message boards like Afterschool and Whisper can lend themselves to cyberbullying.

There are even some apps are designed to HIDE apps from parents.

Apps change daily and so do their popularity.

The more app savvy you become, the more likely you'll be able to keep your child out of a dangerous situation.

It might be a good idea to look into some sort of monitoring software or app that will help you keep an eye on who's chatting with your teen.

All it takes is a little bit of research.

We found several apps, like Kids Place, Parental Control Board, and Norton Family Parental Control, will let you know who your child is calling, what they're texting, and even their GPS location.

Top Apps for Parents to Use to Monitor Children:

  • Kid’s Place
  • Secure Teen Parental Control
  • Parental Control Board
  • Norton Family Parental Control
  • Famigo
  • Canary
  • Avira Social Network Protection
  • TeenSafe 

Top Apps that Parents should be aware of

  • Yik Yak
  • Snapchat
  • Tinder
  • Kik Messenger
  • Whisper
  • Instagram
  • Poof
  • Ask.FM
  • Omegle
  • AfterSchool 

Experts say that it is important to control what your kids are exposed to online and as a parent, you be the lead agency in keeping your kids out of the hands of online predators.

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