WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The pandemic, in many ways, has forced us to become dependent on the virtual world – more than ever before.
It also raises concerns and questions about online safety, especially for our children.
The COVID-19 pandemic, some would say, accelerated the inevitable… the move to a more virtual world for many of us.
But along with that world comes new and enhanced potential dangers for our kids.
Computer crime experts urge everyone, especially parents, to stay alert for potential online threats.
“Even if you think it’s not out there, it is. Anything you post online, anything you do online it’s out there. So we try to talk to them about it all the time,” said Jen, a mother of four.
Jen from Luzerne County has four children ages 9 to 16. She and her 14-year-old son Josh talked with the I-Team about online dangers and what they do to try to head off any potential problems — specifically with online predators.
“Normally within the apps I use I go and like, because sometimes they have like stay safe modes where people can’t add you unless you add them. That’s one of the things I use. Obviously if I see something that does not look normal I could always block or I could just end the chat,” said Josh from Hazleton.
Luzerne County Detective Chaz Balogh investigates online scams and urges parents not to underestimate the lengths at which a predator will go to meet up with a child.
“Andy, there is many of these individuals that are willing to travel to meet our younger children to engage in sexual misconduct,” said Det. Balogh.
He points to the ongoing online sting operation being carried out by the Kingston police. They have arrested nearly two dozen alleged predators over the past year.
“It’s very important that parents actually take the time and go through the apps with their kids and ask them why do they use that app? What’s so special about it? What do you like about it? What are the capabilities? All that information will help a parent determine whether they want their son or daughter to use that app,” said Balogh.
Balogh’s partner Spike assists him during computer crime investigations, namely when they are trying to find computer hardware.
“He can actually find micro SD cards, thumb drives, internal, external hard drives, cellphones, tablets, hidden cameras any kind of electronic storage device Spike’s trained to find,” he said.
Balogh insists that communicating with your child is key in heading off any problems.
“If your son or daughter tells you that, you know, there is a problem. Don’t take the device away. They’re telling you that there’s a problem. Taking the device away is not the answer. The answer is communicating with your children and then relaying that information to law enforcement so that we can do the investigation.”
Det. Balogh adds there are all types of software on the market that allows parents to monitor and have control over the online activities of their children.