When it comes to teaching kids about safety, warning them about not talking to strangers isn’t enough anymore. Parents now have to consider who may be lurking behind the screen — and potentially reaching out to your child over Facebook or popular video games like Fortnight. Huntsville Police say it’s happening often.
“These teens are sending their pictures out,” said Investigator Tony Shivers. “They don’t think about sending things out there anymore. Once it’s out there, it never goes away.”
Shivers is talking about cases he often sees when it comes to online predators. “When they start talking to them and have them send pictures or they send pictures, of course, that’s child pornography — or they entice the child to meet,” he said.
Shivers said predators commonly use social media and online games to prey on kids.
“Predators [will] be looking at three or four different sites at a time, just perusing what the conversations are, and then jump into a conversation, and then start befriending the individual and talking to them and making them think this is someone I can talk to,” he explained.
In a recent case, Huntsville police say a guy in Atlanta connected with an underage girl via a gaming system, and then came here to meet her.. He ended up being charged.
“They’re playing the game, and they think they’re playing with another child. They start talking. They tell them, ‘Hey, move over to this site.’ It’s all Internet based, so they move over to that site, and that’s when they start grooming them,” he said.
To protect kids from predators, police say it’s crucial for parents to monitor kids’ device use. They recommend parents use apps to monitor that activity and also encourage parents to communicate with their kids about what they’re doing online.