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Protecting kids from phone predators means parents need to be involved

Updated: Thursday, October 31 2013, 06:05 PM CDT
Ever hear of Skout?  How about Roulette Chat?

Strangers who want to get to your kids could be as close as the apps on their smartphones.

We've all heard the warnings about watching our kids on the computer.  But now those computers are in their pockets.

"They can change the operational software, explained Dr. Art Jipson, Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology. They can change or hide what they're doing."

One mother told us she does not monitor how much her teen uses her smartphone, and doesnt know how many apps she has on.

Candace Vandawiele's 13-year old daughter Anna uses her smartphone to connect with friends.

"She texts, and a little bit of Instagram," stated Candace.

Lots of kids connect on apps like Instagram. Along with Facebook, Snap chat and the lesser known Skout and countless other chat apps.

There's a lot of information being shared when people think they have privacy, stated Jipson. 

Criminal experts say young people, and even parents, don't always fully understand how easily they can reveal their identity and location.   

We asked Candace, did you know that her phone is actually communicating with the apps on it, even when she's not using it?  Her response was no.

But predators do, and criminals have used random chat apps to geolocate their targets. 

"It never asked me my age or if i had my parents permission," stated one teen.

Internet security firm Mcafee did a recent survey of kids, and more than half said their parents know only some of what they do online.  About a quarter said their parents don't have time to check.

Dr. Jipson says parents need to get up to speed.

Know the latest software, know the latest apps, urged Dr. Jipson.
You can turn off location services on the phone or the apps in its privacy settings.

Click on each app to see if its accessing the phone, info or pictures.

The free app Lookout will warn you about security risks, tell you how to improve security settings, and even tell you which apps are tracking and revealing your location.
   
And don't forget to talk to your kids.

Experts say communication is better than any software.

Experts say this generation of kids thinks it's completely natural to share everything about their lives online.

So be sure to talk with your kids about what's appropriate, and it's not a bad idea to spend some time with that owner's manual for the smartphone.
Protecting kids from phone predators means parents need to be involved


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