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Safety experts: Parents should know who kids are texting during summer break

Safety experts: Parents should know who kids are texting during summer break

RICHLAND, Wash. — Support Advocacy and Research Center (SARC) director JoDee Garretson said online predators build fake profiles, earn trust, and go from there.

Richland police Crime Prevention Specialist Cerise Peck said 85 percent of teens have access to cell phones, social media, and potential trouble.

"If your child has access to the internet there's always the opportunity for somebody to communicate with them,” she said.

Peck said it’s vital parents know who their kids think they’re talking to.

"'Do these children really have a thousand friends? Do the have a face-to-face relationship," she asked. “It's time to figure out if that's a real person or not."

Garretson said children who’ve made a new friend online won’t always understand the risks associated with sharing information with a complete stranger.

“They're thinking they met a new friend or a new person that cares about them.”

Peck said online predators are good at what they do.

"That's their job,” she explained. “They spend their entire life learning to communicate with minors in a manner that you and I don't communicate with them."

That’s why Peck said to make sure you have access to every account your child uses, and go through their phone.

"It's okay to see what your kids are doing,” Garretson said. “It's not invading privacy when it comes to online, because the dangers are too real."

Both experts said you can’t be afraid to take your kid’s phone away.

During the night, or at least until they’re older.

It might make them mad, but it’s still one of the best ways for you to protect them.

"I don't care of that child has mowed lawns all summer to earn that phone,” Peck said. “They live in your house and ultimately that phone belongs to you. Assert your authority as a parent.“

Garretson said knowledge is power, but parents should remember that it works both ways.

She said to talk to your kids and make sure they know the people they’re talking to might not be who they think.

"And there's real dangers that they need to be aware of, so [they’re] educated and prepared,“ she said.

Peck said there are apps parents can download to help monitor what kids are using their phones for.

She said RPD doesn’t have a favorite, as different families have different needs.

Peck also encourages parents to learn how to use social media to better understand the dangers.

She said Richland Police Department is teaming up with the regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) taskforce to offer a free class where parents can learn what apps are available to their child’s phone and what they’re commonly used for.

Screenshot Series: Going viral, a parent’s guide

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