Police say the case is an example of a growing problem and that parents need to take a greater role in monitoring their children’s online and mobile activity.
“I would say that there’s not a school that’s not affected by this behavior,” says 1st Sgt. Robby Holland with the Virginia State Police High-Tech Crimes Division.
“As far as how often it occurs, I would say it’s exploded. Instagram, Snapchat and Kik App. Kik App is a really big one right now of these type of activities going on where images are being shared,” he says.
Holland says that parents should take advantage of parental controls. Parents shouldn’t just hand over a smart phone to a child without setting boundaries.
“You can set parental controls and all these apps are rated. So you can set it to where they can’t download 17-plus rated apps, ” he says.
Kik App for example is rated 17+. He says he’s been getting calls from parents with 11- and 12-year-old children who have Kik on their phones. The app is frequently used by adults sharing sexual content, he says.
When children primarily used Facebook, parents seemed more connected to what their children were doing online. But he says more and more young people have migrated to apps like Kik, Snapchat and Instagram – apps their parents aren’t following.
With greater numbers of children ages 9, 10 and 11 getting smart phones and tablets, parents have to be proactive in order to protect their children online. Parents should restrict Internet access and discuss computer safety with their children.
He says one of the best way to guard against child predators is to make sure that your child doesn’t talk to people nor friend or accept friend requests from people they don’t know.