Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat are common names of internet-based programs that many use almost daily to stay connected to friends, family, celebrities and various media outlets. Most often, we receive “breaking news” from one of the multiple major news apps. A recent study by the Pew Research Center determined “224.3 Million Americans own a smartphone or similar device”.
While the vast majority of internet activity is legitimate, advantageous and often extremely beneficial, unfortunately, there are other avenues of illegitimate and illegal activity online. With the ease of access to this harmful information, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you of several areas of interest, especially as parents, as our younger generations gain more and more access to this infinite web of knowledge the internet has to offer.
I recently read an article where suicide tips for children were being spliced into You Tube videos and YouTube Kids videos. Additionally, there are countless popular video games, videos and Apps, many of which depict sexual situations and illegal drug use all at our children’s fingertips.
Also commonplace among the web are sites where individuals can engage in “online dating”, while most of these sights are legitimate, many are used as a forum for the conduction of illegal activity. As investigators, we see numerous times where online sites are used to lure unsuspecting victims into dangerous situations. Many times, under the disguise of a legitimate date, or selling of an item, one party, quite often, becomes a victim. The danger involved with these sites is the unknown, never knowing who you are truly meeting or their true intentions. Always, always, always use caution.
Mobile devices also have the ability to serve as a convenient camera, and photos can be shared with the ease of the send button. Text messages serve as a hard copy of a conversation between two, and many times, multiple parties. Know that while such photos and conversations may be deleted from your phone, with modern technology, there are never truly gone. An important rule of thumb - if you would not want your grandparents seeing it, don’t send it.
For these reasons, the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office has an investigator assigned to the ICAC or Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce along with an electronic device forensic section in our Special Victims Unit. These specialized tools are utilized when we have crimes or investigations involving computers, cellular telephones or other devices. When children are involved we use our ICAC resources to locate and arrest these suspects.
As a parent of children growing up in the age of electronics, I am extremely concerned about our children, their use of the internet and devices from which they access it. As parents and adults, we must talk to our children about how to be safe on the internet and we must monitor their internet activity. Here are just a few tips for us to use and topics we should talk with our young people about:
Charge their electronic devices in your bedroom. This allows them to get some sleep by not being able to play or watch them at night. Plus it also allows you access to see what they have been doing on line.
Check the data usage of their applications. Some apps are just a cover for a hidden file or photo sharing application. Applock, Vault and Spycal are just a few of these apps used for hiding files. Check the apps for duplicate items, such as two or more calculator or map apps. This could be a clue of hidden apps.
Know your child(s) password or numeric code. Ask your child for their passwords or codes. If they will not give them to you, ask them why and don’t take no for an answer.
Overly obsessed with gaming or having gaming partners you do not know. Offenders often meet young people in game or chat rooms online and make attempts to have them send pictures or actually meet in person. Know who your child is gaming or chatting with.
Bottom line is, as parents and adults we must remain vigilant in monitoring our youths online life, and know the types of information they are exposing their ever-developing minds to. If you have any further questions about this topic, please call me at 704-878-3180 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.