Local law enforcement offers advice to keep your kids safe from online predators

Predators infiltrating all forms of online media
Keeping your kids safe from online predators

It's estimated young people can spend up to nine hours a day online, whether it's a laptop or phone. Those likely to spend even more time on the internet are online predators.

10TV went inside a department of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office whose sole mission is tracking those predators who are reaching out to kids in ways you never thought possible.

Not too long ago, Theresa Boyce got a Facebook friend request from a man she didn't know. It happened before, but this one was different.

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"It had nasty pictures on it and I deleted it,” Boyce said.

She blocked him, but he wasn't through. His next target? Her son.

"And then it shows up on my son's Facebook page two days later. So, I blocked him on all my kids’ Facebooks.”

Then, there are predators who create a totally fake world like a 35-year old man whose Facebook account said he was an 18-year old girl. He befriended kids on a central Ohio wrestling team and before you know it, they were getting naked pictures from this “girl” and the wrestlers were then sending pictures of themselves.

Detectives in the Franklin County ICAC Division track these predators all over Ohio and nationally. ICAC stands for Internet Crimes Against Children.

“We've executed search warrants for people living in homeless shelters and we've executed search warrants for people in $2 million homes. We've arrested doctors, lawyers, cops. High-ranking professionals across the city,” one lead detective said.

Predators can take a year or more building trust with potential victims. That teenage girl whose friend online is a “great listener.”

One day, she vented about her nagging parents and the detective described what happens next.

“He takes that as an opportunity to say – ‘Hey, you can come live with me and do whatever you want if you come live with me.’ It opens up an avenue for her to say ‘yeah, come get me’ and he drives up to Columbus and takes her."

So, parents, what should you do to protect your kids?

First, look at your kids’ devices, their social media accounts and get their passwords.

It’s not just social media, either. Take video games like Fortnite. They're avenues for young kids to build relationships with people they don't know at all, but they think they do. It starts with a game, then a phone number and communicating outside the game. That, said the detective, “is when it can get dangerous.”

10TV spoke to parents about this at a “Stranger Danger” workshop that took place at the Gladden House. It was organized by the group Action for Children. Another ‘Stranger Danger’ workshop is coming in March and it’s open to parents.

The workshop is on March 6 at Action for Children on Jefferson Avenue. Call them to register at 614-224-0222.