Law enforcement officials estimate that at any one time about 500,000 online predators are hoping to lure unsuspecting children and teenagers.
WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Kentucky State Trooper Corey King, who is presenting a workshop on the potential dangers of social media Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 6 p.m. central at Owensboro High School.
Trooper King will show parents how to watch for signs that their child is possibly being lured by online predators and some steps to take to protect their children.
King: This is the devil’s playground. This is where the predators troll is online, because not only can they stay anonymous, but in fact they can change their whole identity. Essentially a 50-year-old man could pose as a 14-year-old boy and lure some girls that way. That is what we’re seeing and that is the scary part as a parent. Literally, it’s as easy as clicking a button and having a conversation with somebody you think may be a new student at your school, but the reality is it’s a sex offender from another county. Just Kentucky alone, we have almost 20,000 child porn images shared in this state every day.
Miller: What ages are most vulnerable to these kinds of predators? And is it girls or boys? How does that all break down?
King: I think it’s really a good time to have that conversation with your child around 5th grade or 6thgrade. They’re starting to really get adapted in the world of these apps, these social apps, where they’re communicating not only with their friends that they know, but also once they truncate over to middle and high school, they’re doing so much more and they’re broadening out. That’s usually where we see some of these predators grooming their victims. We’ve seen them as young as 4thgrade.
Miller: Sometimes we read about police reports where an older predator lured a young girl, maybe a young boy, and they went to meet them somewhere, and these are kids who are really too young to drive, but somehow they get them to where they can take advantage of them.
King: Oftentimes what we have seen locally is that adults would drive to them. And if they live within the city limits, perhaps there is a location that those kids can walk to, maybe a park. These predators will go to any length. They will fly in. They will rent cars. And sadly, at this age there’s still so much trust built in with our youth. And this is where they know can exploit that trust. Most of the time the predators are predominantly male, largely male. They will lure teenage girls or preteen girls. But what we see with the young boys it will be online gaming. We have seen, for example, Fortnight, you may have a male try to groom multiple boys into the meeting. So, if you have the online gaming where you’re able to communicate with someone else who is playing the game with you, if they were to try to ask you to call, text them, go to Snapchat, something where they want to move from that forum over into one, that’s a red flag right there. That’s probably a predator trying to get the young boy. I tell parents, if you allow your child to get Snapchat, you get Snapchat. But only follow your own child on Snapchat but follow your child’s friends. Because you are who your friends are. And we see that especially around the 7th, 8th and 9th grade level.
Miller: And if a person cannot come to the workshop, if they’re concerned, what should a parent do if they can’t get to the workshop?
King: Ask your school counselor or call Kentucky State Police. I will gladly come to your event and do this for free.
Miller: Very important. Thank you so much, Trooper King. I really appreciate your time.
King: You’re certainly welcome. Take care, Rhonda.
Miller: Thank you. Bye-bye. I’ve been talking with Trooper Corey King. For WKU Public Radio, I’m Rhonda Miller.