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Sheriff Whisenant's Tip of the Month

 

February 2017

 

Internet Safety & Children

 

Lately, there has been an increase of reports filed with the Burke County Sheriff's Office in regards to children or teens becoming victims of online sexual predators. One parent made the comment to one of our CID detectives, "I had no idea this stuff existed."

 

But the sad fact is that it does exist, and that there are MILLIONS of online sexual predators accessing the internet each day.  One of the most commonly used mediums 

 

by these predators is the use of mobile instant messaging applications. Some of the more popular ones among children and teens include Instagram, Snapchat, KIK, and Skout, but there are endless other applications out there that your child can download on their cell phones, tablets, iPods, and computers.

 

Today, the internet makes it alarmingly easy for online predators to make contact with children. Most often, the predator will establish an online profile claiming to be a teenager so that other teens or children will feel more comfortable talking to them. Additionally, they will search for public information on profiles to help find teens geographically near them. Once they do this, they will make contact with that child. Many of these predators are master manipulators and will gain your child's trust via a process termed "grooming" by experts. "Grooming" is when a predator will earn an unsuspecting child's trust by first befriending them, empathizing with them over things the child complains about, or complimenting the child by telling them they are attractive. Once trust is gained, a predator will then usually start requesting photographs of the child. As the photograph sharing progresses, the predator will then start asking the child to send photographs of themselves partially clothed, and then ultimately will request pornographic images. In most cases, during the course of this "grooming", the predator will also send pornographic images to the child. This is a process that can take a mere couple of days, or might take weeks, depending on the length of time it takes the predator to earn the child's trust. Sometimes, after a trust has been established and images have been exchanged between the child and the predator, the predator might make a request to meet with the child in person. Sadly, many times the child will agree and will secretly meet the predator because by that time, an emotional connection has been made.

 

The most recent trend is pedophiles approaching children via online video game platforms. These platforms allow the use of two-way voice and video communication. Many parents who are already vigilant in monitoring their children's Internet activity have not considered that predator's are also using video gaming platforms to make contact with children and begin this same "grooming" process.

 

 

SOME ADVICE FOR PARENTS:

 

  • Educate your children and promote online safety. Make sure your child is aware of the dangers described above, and including that predators do set up "fake profiles" posing as children themselves.
  • Monitor your children's internet use. There are computer programs available that can assist you with this. Remember that teens are not always honest with parents about their online activities.
  • Encourage your children to not leave any personal information "public" on their online profiles. Additionally, encourage them to not "friend" anybody that they do not know personally. Once you "friend" somebody on a social networking site, they have access to any information your child posts about themselves, including photographs.
  • Encourage your child to not post any photographs accessible by the "public" that might have identifying information in them, such as your child wearing a shirt with their school name written across the front.
  • Parents are encouraged to know their children's passwords and monitor what social media sites they visit and what type of chat programs they have on their different devices.

THINGS AN ONLINE SEXUAL PREDATOR LOOKS FOR:

 

  • Target children with lower self-esteem
  • Target children who are more technologically savvy than their parents. This makes it less likely that the parents will discover the "relationship" that the predator is cultivating with the child.
  • Social networking profiles with personal information that is visible to the public (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, PlayStation Network etc.). Many teens have information public such as: their hometown, school, birth date, Instant Messaging ID's, favorite music, favorite TV shows, etc. Predators can use this public information to establish a connection and gain a child's trust. For example, a predator might approach a child and begin a conversation by mentioning they go to a school in a nearby town and mention they like the same TV show the child likes. This is an effective way to strike up a conversation with an unsuspecting child.

 

A Good Resource for Parents: The FBI's "Parent Guide to Internet Safety" - http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/parent-guide

 

 

If somebody suspicious comes to your house, or you wish to report any suspicious activity, please do not hesitate to call the Burke County Sheriff's Office at (828) 438-5500.

 

To view previous released tips, visit our archives file