Parents Warned That Popular Texting Apps Could Put Kids In Danger

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Popular texting apps could put kids in danger

As kids in central Ohio head back to school, Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott says parents need to have a conversation with their children about the dangers of being too friendly online.

"Children can send inappropriate photos of themselves and a short period later, they're gone and they assume it's gone," says Sheriff Zach Scott. But, as CrimeTracker 10's Angela An reported, Scott also says it's enough time for a sexual predator to get what they need.

"Oh, they may be talking to a predator, that's the whole point. A predator can set up their own sites,” says Scott. "If they can capture the photo, then they go into a situation where they then do ‘sextortion.’"

"Sextortion" is a situation where sexual predators extort kids by threatening to expose them and the photos they shared, if they don't provide more photos or meet other demands.
Scott says that is why parents need to be aware of specific social media icons on their children's iPhones, iPods, or iPads. The list of apps includes Slout, Kik, Snapchat, Meet Me, and Thumb. They look like any other app, but offer unlimited texting and photo sharing abilities.

There's even one app that tells you how close you are to each other.

"That icon is just like a texting icon, you'll glaze right over it, and the kids will know you have no idea what they're talking about," says Sheriff Scott. "You're not aware of that as a parent."

Making new friends online is fast and easy. Profiles set up posing as a 15-year-old girl received five instant chats within minutes and one direct message.

Scott cautions that some of the individuals on the other end could be sexual predators, as investigators with the Franklin County Sheriff's Office Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force have found out over the years.

This year, ICAC investigations online led to 40 arrests, 76 search warrants, and felony charges against 11 "travelers" - people who come from out of town for the purpose of having sex with children.

"Biggest thing you can do as your kids head to back to school is have a conversation with your kids," says Scott. "I don't want you to scare the kids, but you have to let the kids know there are dangers involved in getting on the internet with people trying to talk to you that you don't know."

Parents should ask their children questions about what they see while walking home from school, who is trying to solicit them online, or uncomfortable messages they receive - even from friends.

"Communicate, communicate, communicate," says Scott.

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