It starts off with a friendly game on a mobile device or computer, and before you know it, your child has been conned into sending naked pictures to a complete stranger.
“I’m getting kids who are on KIK as young as eight years old being sextorted right in their bedrooms and parents have no idea because they’re not having these conversations with their children,” said Detective Richard Wistocki, Naperville Police Department.
Predators use the chat room in mobile games to target kids, getting them to invite them to another app such as Snapchat. There, they ask for one nude photo, using that to blackmail them into sending more naked pictures or videos.
“It’s not that children are doing anything bad, it’s the predators that know that they can get to the children through the games, through the apps and make them victims,” said Detective Wistocki.
Richard Wistocki has been a Detective for the Computer Crimes Unit at the Naperville Police Department for more than 20 years. He says sextortion is one of the top crimes on the rise.
“We are well over 80 predators that we have arrested over three years. So it’s roughly three predators a month that we catch, but the amount of children that we’re saving is far more exciting,” said Detective Wistocki.
As a parent, Cathy Subber knows the dangers her two boys face when they open up those apps.
“I find it very difficult to manage, ‘what do they know that I don’t know, what different apps are they using that I have no idea about, what do I need to be aware of,’ so all of those things are always going to be out there and I think my main job as a parent is making sure that my kids are equipped with the knowledge of what they should be doing and what they shouldn’t be doing,” said mother and Founder of Naperville Moms Network, Cathy Subber.
Although speaking with your children about what’s right and wrong is important, you need to cross some boundaries to ensure their online safety.
“When parents get the notion that they have to respect their child’s privacy, that’s the wrong notion. Parents that allow their children to charge their devices in their room at night are making a fatal mistake,” said Detective Wistocki.
Another task for parents: Keeping up to date on codes kids use to communicate. Slang like GNOC, “get naked on camera” or NIFOC, “naked in front of camera” is rampant, and if a kid knows there’s a PIR, “parent in room” they might resort to these codes to keep the conversation going. Learning about those and finding out the apps on your kids phone can help keep them safe.
“Knowledge is power and if they have the right knowledge and the right ways to do this, we’re going to catch more,” said Detective Wistocki.
A helping hand in the cause, MyMobile Watchdog. This app, and others like it, can help monitor your child’s phone interactions while you’re not around. It’s steps like this that can make all the difference.
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