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Parents Can Take Steps To Protect Kids Online

WAOW Television

It's no secret that technology is ever-changing. However, the apps on your kids phone may be secret, and that secrecy is an aid to online predators.

It could be Snapchat, Tik Tok, House Party or a multitude of other apps. But, if it's an app your kids uses, sexual predators are also likely on them.

Detective Anthony Reince with the Wausau Police Department said targeting can start with just a simple "Hey, how are you doing?" but can quickly turn into something more.

"Send me more nude photos... otherwise I'm gonna send this to your parents, or I'm gonna send this to your teach or your coach," is an example Detective Reince gave of how predators coerce and manipulate victims.

These instances are more frequent than you may think. In 2017, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received more than 10 million reports of child exploitation.

But with so many apps, Brittany Burnette with the Child Advocacy Center acknowledged it can be hard to keep up.

"If this is what these technologies and these platforms are like now, what are they gonna be like when my children are old enough to have cell phones?" Burnette said.

And with younger and younger kids being exposed to media, parents should start having online safety conversations with their kids early.

"It's not just school-aged teens, but also younger kids we're seeing coming in and engaging in these types of apps and engaging in these conversations with these sexual predators who are seeking them out," Burnette said.

The Wausau Police Department has even seen reports involving kids as young as eight.

"Make sure you build up that trust with your child that they'll report it to you before it turns into a really bad mistake," said Detective Reince .

If your kid reports something off to you, then you can report what's happening and get law enforcement and social services involved.

Experts add you shouldn't be afraid to actually check what apps your kids has on their devices. If there's something you're unfamiliar with, it's a good chance to ask and start the discussion.

But if they're reluctant to tell you about it, you can always check the user license agreement to learn more about how the app is intended to be used.

You can also report online exploitation with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

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