Is Your Child Texting a Sexual Predator?

by Russ Warner

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It seems like these days, there's an app for everything. There are even apps that allow you to send text messages without having a cell phone plan.

Sounds great, right?  That's what tweens and teens think because mom or dad sometimes can't afford to buy a smart phone and a texting plan. And, sometimes kids are just too young for such connected devices.

Some common texting apps are Text Free, Text Now, and Text Plus. They are easy to install and work over Wi-Fi.

To be sure, sexual predators are happy about these free texting apps.  Sexual predators know that mom or dad typically don’t know their child has downloaded a free texting app.  As such, predators attempt to talk with underage targets, grooming them, and asking for inappropriate pictures and a terrifying amount of detail in order to track down the child.

Crimes against children specialist Detective Mike Harris, who has arrested over 500 people in the last eight years, said:

“I'm always amazed, because we aren't arresting people who aren't smart. We are arresting professionals…businessmen; I've arrested people in law enforcement. It's not just that low element of people that you'd think would commit crimes. These are people in society that no one would imagine.”

Tweens and teens need to be told that it isn’t safe to text strangers. In fact, anyone that asks for inappropriate info or photos should be avoided completely. Parents should talk with their kids and let them know they can speak openly if they’ve been inappropriately approached by a stranger or even someone known, whether in the real world or the virtual world.

If you wish to keep a bit more vigilant about the apps your child uses, the following are a helpful few tips:

1. Take time to review the apps your kids want. You can read comments by other users to see if there are any known issues or concerns.

2. If you have an Android phone or tablet, consider using an app manager to block apps used without your permission. Vendors with app managers include Net Nanny, App Lock, and Smart AppLock.

3. If your child has an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad, Apple provides tools to disable in-app purchases, to stop apps from being downloaded, and much more.

4. If you have a Kindle Fire, there are a few built-in parental controls features and one lets you block in-app purchases.

If you do decide to let your kids use free texting apps, make it clear you will be monitoring what they send and to whom. Kids need to be reminded and reminded that it isn’t safe to communicate with strangers.

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