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Child predators using social media apps to target local children

Child predators using social media apps to target children (KHQA)
Child predators using social media apps to target children (KHQA)
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Social media and online communication apps are at the forefront of online predators looking to meet children.

The Child Advocacy Center of Northeast Missouri reported recently that they saw four children for forensic interviews who met their perpetrators through snapchat, then met them in-person, and then were sexually assaulted.

"In the particular cases recently that have come to our attention, that communication has been used through snapchat," said Amy Robins, the Forensic Services Program Director.

Discord is another app predators are using to target kids, along with apps that have a location feature built into it.

Robins said predators are able to befriend children online by giving them what they need.

"They [predators] are figuring out what that need is, and how they can fill that void for that child in a very targeted and manipulative way," she said.

There are proactive measures parents can take to shield their kids from predators, while still allowing their children some freedoms online.

Porscha Thorpe, a prevention education program director at the Child Advocacy Center, said it is important for parents to learn about all the different apps where their child could be targeted.

"We make sure that, one, they know the games' apps their kids are using," Thorpe said. "And two, they are using their settings to set privacy settings on those games and apps."

Thorpe warns about parents taking away their child's devices entirely.

"We want them to be able to do things, because these are things designed for kids to have fun and socialize," she said. "We don't want to take that away from them."

And it's consistent conversations with your child Thorpe said that will make the biggest difference.

"You can't just show up one day and say, 'Hey, let me look at your phone,'" she said. "Now your kid is guarded; now your kid wants to hide things."

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Advocacy Center officials said if you find your child in this type of situation, the important thing is to not take matters into your own hands, and take the device directly to the nearest law enforcement agency.

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