Protecting Children from Online Predators

Protecting Children from Online Predators

A popular topic that parents should be aware of are ways predators are trying to contact your children. Most kids have their eyes affixed to a piece of technology the majority of the day; smart phones, tablets, computers, console gaming systems, etc. 

Children are growing up in a more technologically advanced world and start using smart devices at very early ages. We suggest that before giving or allowing them access to any communications device that rules are set, parental controls are instituted, and spot checks are conducted by monitoring their activity. This should include not allowing kids the ability to download an app on their own, and you should control the password for purchases, even for free apps.

There is a plethora of apps out there that can be used for inappropriate things even though that’s not their intended purpose. Almost all of these apps require a login, so parents may feel more comfortable knowing that they can look at their username profile to make sure everything is legit. Unfortunately, the predators don’t care about the profile, to include being under age and then there’s the kids that make fake profiles. Just because you check your child’s call and text messaging history doesn’t mean they aren’t texting or calling anyone. There are apps for that!

We all know about Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumbler, and Flickr. Here are some apps that you should be aware of, and these are just some of the most popular right now:

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Snapchat

An extremely popular app that allows the users to post pics and/or video that will disappear after 24 hours. Every 60-seconds there are 2.4 million “Snaps” created. 

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Bumble

This app is similar to Tinder but the female has to reach out to the male. It is used as a dating app among other things.

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Tinder

An online “swipe” dating app. A fake profile can be created allowing a minor to gain access.

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Whatsapp

This is a secure messaging and phone call app that can be used anywhere around the world.

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HOLLA

A random streaming video chat where you can meet people all over the world.

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Omegle

Oddly enough, this app even has the headline “Talk to strangers!” and a warning that predators have been known to use the site and to be careful.

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chatroulette

Similar to HOLLA, a live streaming random chat with audio and video.

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kik

A direct messaging app that allows a bypass of typical text messaging features.

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Hot or Not

This app rates your picture on your profile from a 1-10 with the ultimate goal of being a dating / hook-up app. This can also have harsh consequences to a child if the ratings are low due to possible bullying. 

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Houseparty

A group live streaming video app.

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Whisper

This app is was designed to give secrets and to discover secrets that are around you. To discover secrets around you the app will need to know your location. You can post these messages, pics, and video anonymously.

A lot of the seemingly harmless game apps also have a messaging component where a potential predator could attempt contact with your child.

Even console gaming systems like Playstation and Xbox allow text and voice communication. 

Apps can also request your location, therefore, people viewing the messages would be able to see where your child is when the message, picture, and/or video is sent. There is no perfect app to block everything that you don’t want your child to see. But using a combination of parental controls, spot checking your child’s devices, and having an open relationship with them can become a huge deterrent for a predator and your child. 

We want your children to be safe but you need to be the first line of defense. Know your child’s passwords for not only each device but for each social media app they have. Use a location app to know where your child is and, again, spot check by monitoring your child’s social media activity! 

If you feel that your child is being targeted or harassed/bullied save as much of the information as possible like usernames and taking screenshots and call your local law enforcement. If you live in the City of Cape Coral call the Cape Coral Police Department at (239) 574-3223 or in an emergency 911.


About the author:

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Master Sergeant Allan Kolak is a 22-year veteran of law enforcement, assigned to the Office of the Chief of Police. He serves as a Public Affairs Officer for the Cape Coral Police Department and oversee the Public Affairs Office, Planning and Research Unit, and Victim Assistance Unit. 

Sergeant Kolak has previously served as a Patrol Officer, School Resource Officer, Field Training Officer, DUI Officer, and Traffic Homicide Investigator. He has also served as a supervisor in the Patrol Bureau over district officers and Field Training Officers. Sergeant Kolak has served in the Professional Standards Bureau supervising the Personnel Unit, Accreditation, Internal Affairs, Training Unit and in the Special Operations Bureau as a supervisor in charge of the DUI Unit, Drug Recognition Experts (DRE), Traffic Homicide Investigators, and the K-9 unit. He is an instructor for the Cape Coral Police Department in several different topic areas and holds several certifications such as Drug Recognition Expert Instructor. Sergeant Kolak is the State of Florida Region 2 DRE Coordinator. 

Sergeant Kolak holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from California Coast University. He currently is a member of  MADD Southwest Florida board and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.