EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Many kids are phone-obsessed these days and the risks are plenty.
Cyberbullies can threaten and predators can reach out to minors through social networks, gaming platforms, or apps.
There are an estimated 500,000 online predators active on social media sites each day. Children between the ages of 12 and 15 are especially susceptible to being groomed and manipulated. Predators pose as a peer, use fake photos, and create fake profiles to lure minors to chat. No parent wants to think of their child in this chilling situation. That’s why it’s important to be proactive to help minimize your child’s exposure.
“Sometimes I get a little worried about my screen time, over the pandemic it was 12 hours, oh I need a to stop,” said Madison Mecgivern, Scranton.
Like most teens, 17-year-old Madison Mecgivern of Scranton is savvy when it comes to social media. She’s a fan of TikTok and Snapchat. Madison’s experience with social media started at the age of 10 when she got an Instagram account.
“At first, my parents didn’t know what to do. After a while, they were like we’re gonna follow you and make sure no one is being weird on there,” said Mecgivern.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, reports to its cyber tipline spiked 106% during the first few months of the pandemic. Although lockdowns are over and kids are back in school, law enforcement warns parents to always be vigilant of their kids’ digital activity.
“It allows a criminal, it allows a child predator, a child molester, it allows a jihadist in the middle east to reach right into your houses, into your child’s bedroom,” said Joe Peters, Wyoming County District Attorney.
Here are some things you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to online predators:
- make sure your kids know all their followers personally.
- discuss the consequences of sharing inappropriate photos or distasteful jokes which can come back to haunt them.
- set screen limits, and engage parental controls that block inappropriate content.
- ask specific questions, Who are you talking to? What are you watching? What apps do you use?
“Get in their business, go in their room, I respect my kid’s privacy. You’re not being a good parent everybody has their own methodology but you want to be a good parent? My suggestion is don’t respect their privacy,” said D.A. Peters.
Other tips to protect your kids from online predators:
- Check your child’s home screen or pc several times a week.
- Be on the lookout for ‘finsta’ accounts, a child’s second account that the parent isn’t aware of.
- Take the phone away at night to prevent late night conversations
- If your child encounters a threatening situation online, report it to police.