Police warn parents of apps used for anonymity by child predators

WASHINGTON — Federal and state investigators say there could be more children who were abused by a former teacher’s aide in Prince George’s County. And as they look into the app he allegedly used to share child porn, police are cautioning parents to be proactive.

In investigating former volunteer school aide Deonte Carraway, 22, now facing federal child pornography charges, U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein says many kids don’t know what to do if they’re approached inappropriately online.

“If your child has a phone, a computer, or any kind of device that connects to the Internet, chances are they’re going to be exposed to predators,” Rosenstein said.

As many as 17 children have been identified as victims of Carraway. They were abused at four different locations including a school, a municipal building and residences, police have said. Police said an uncle of one of Carraway’s victims alerted police to a nude photo he saw the victim had sent to Carraway using the Kik messaging app.

Rosenstein says predators gravitate toward apps with anonymity, such as Kik, Yik Yak and Afterschool — all of which are popular with kids. The apps, which can be used for legitimate purposes, do not require users to give their names, addresses or their phone numbers to create a profile.

While those who investigate child predators are aware these sites can be a breeding ground for inappropriate activity, Rosenstein says attempting to shut down the apps isn’t the answer.

“There’s always going to be Internet applications that offer anonymity, so the only solution to that is for parents to be attuned to that,” Rosenstein said.

Many parents have an understanding with their kids about what is OK to share and how to behave online. But investigators say parents still need to have the sometimes-difficult conversation with their children about what is “good touching” and what is “bad touching.” Also, parents need to monitor their online activity, Rosenstein adds.

“Don’t feel like you’re invading their privacy. Feel like you have an obligation to know what they’re doing,” Rosenstein says.

It’s a parental decision of how much to keep an eye on a child’s online activity, however in the Carraway case, Chief Hank Stawinski says it was one child’s guardian who alerted police to what turned out to be a child pornography case involving at least 17 kids.

“You know your child better than anyone else. Continue to be part of their lives and make sure you know who else is part of their lives,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Kevin Perkins, who is investigating the Carraway case.

Police are concerned there are more victims out there in connection to Deonte Carraway and ask parents who have concerns contact them at 1800-CALL-FBI.

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