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CONTACT 13: Social media apps putting children at risk

Posted at 11:00 PM, Oct 28, 2016

This isn't a toy. One local group says social media apps are putting our children at risk. And too many parents are giving their kids a phone and not enough supervision. Contact 13 looks at the danger behind many smartphone apps.

"Instagram, Musically and Twitter," says 13-year-old Anique.
 
"I have Snapchat and Instagram and I have Facebook," says 14-year-old Trevor.
 
Teens spend hours on their phones.
 
"I like Snapchat," says 13-year-old Aly.
 
Sometimes connecting with hundreds of different people through social media apps.
 
"4 or 500 followers on there," says 13-year-old Jace.
 
And that's the problem. Margarita Edwards with Nevada Child Seekers says too many kids are in direct contact with dangerous people.
 
"If you walked into your child's room and you saw 20 grown men in their bedroom, what would your first response be?" says Margarita.
 
"That would be scary and a concern," says mother, Michele Brown.
 
"20 strangers in her room? I would question why I don't have a gun," says father, Rey Herrera.
 
"Is 911 close by?" says father, Kurt Ouchida. 
 
But that's exactly what's happening. Strangers are using social media to reach your child. They're using apps that are popular with kids; like Whisper, Yik Yak, Omegle, Kik and ASKfm. And the problem with every one of these?
 
"There's a chat option. There's always a chat option... But the thing is, is there's 15, 20, 100 more apps coming in that will do the same," says Margarita.
 
Predators are talking to and gaining your child's trust, and Margarita says, brainwashing them.
 
"Don't talk to your parents. Don't tell them what's going on. They won't understand this relationship," says Margarita.
 
And if you think you're safe because you have a good kid, think again.
 
"There are so many good kids out there. There's so many good kids. But I can also tell you, that I've searched for so many good kids," says Margarita.
 
8,000 Nevada kids go missing every year. That's more than 20 kids every day. And one in three will be solicited online. While some kids are kidnapped, many are simply walking away from home. And a lot of predators today are as young as 16 or 17 years old.
 
"A lot of the predators are actually becoming younger and younger... The predators are smart, and as a community, we need to be smarter," says Margarita.
 
Valley parents we spoke with agree and say they're taking every precaution.
 
"I do follow her on Instagram, and I'm engaged with her on Facebook as well," says Rey.
 
"I'm on her phone continually throughout the day looking at what she's doing," says Michele.
 
One local dad says, he kicked his son off social media all together, after discovering inappropriate postings from followers.
 
"So when there was an Instagram incident, we cracked down on it pretty quickly," says Kurt.
 
As one mom put it, you've got to be actively involved, so you know who your kid is inviting into their room.
 
"If I'm in the room, then I have the opportunity to say, you're out. You're out, you're OK. You're out. You get to stay, you don't. And that's how I view my interaction with him and his social media. I need to be in the room. I need to be on these apps," says mother Carolyn Mahler.
 
So what can you do to protect your kids? Start by talking to them. Follow their accounts, and monitor what they and their friends are posting.
 
If you have a question about any follower you don't know: ask your child for that person's first and last name and how they know them. If they can't answer at least 2 out of 3, then delete the follower.