More time online during pandemic creates new opportunity for child predators

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More time at home means more time online.

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According to experts, children spending online creates a prime opportunity for predators.

Natasha Bonner is a regional supervisor for Crisis Services at Youth Villages.

“They’re using TikTok and they’re using apps called Instagram and WhatsApp to lurk into the youth’s (direct messages) and just try to figure how they can better connect with these youth,” Bonner told WHBQ.

According to PureSight.com, 33% of teens are Facebook friends with people they’ve never met.

The site also said 75% of children are willing to share personal information in exchange for goods.

Bonner said the trick predators use is posing as kids themselves.

“Sometimes these kids don’t understand that although these profiles may look as if they’re teenagers most of the time they’re behind the scenes, behind the camera being adults or older teenagers posing as younger teens,” Bonner told WHBQ.

PureSight said sexual predators are usually between the ages of 18 and 55, with the target age between 11 and 15.

Bonner advised parents to be comfortable with having real conversations with their children.

“It’s okay for parents to use words like ‘naked photos,’ ‘private conversations,’ ‘sexual human trafficking,’” Bonner said. “These conversations need to be had by parents and it needs to be understood that there is a clear expectation on what needs to be said on these online chat rooms.”

Bonner said red flags to check for include someone constantly asking for pictures, phone numbers and asking to FaceTime.

“Just really understand that like mental health, human trafficking, child online solicitation, that’s something that’s a continuously ongoing pandemic in the United States with COVID or without COVID,” she said.

Bonner had advice for if your child is contacted by a predator.

She said to make sure the child knows they did the right thing by telling.

Also, take screenshots of messages or pictures that may have been sent.

You should also call the child abuse hotline and your local police department.

A girl is seen as she attends an online school lesson.
A girl is seen as she attends an online school lesson. (Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)