Protecting your kids from online predators

Posted at 7:20 PM, Apr 06, 2020

SARASOTA, Fla. — As students finish the school year at home, online predators may see this as an opportunity. But, a local group shares tips to prevent your child from becoming an easy target.

According to Selah Freedom Foundation, 70 percent of sex trafficking involving minors starts on the web. They say ten percent of children in the U.S. get solicited for sex online.

Selah’s prevention coordinator Kyra Montaque says children don’t have to become easy prey. There’s questions young people can ask themselves when posting on public forums and gaming sites.

“Can a person go on my social media and see when, when I’m at school, when I am gone, when I’m in practice?” Said Montaque.

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, she says take those posts down so predators can’t learn your whereabouts. She says the best line of defense is avoiding chitchat with people you don’t know.

She added predators usually start with casual conversation and then progress into more sexual requests for nude photos.

“If for some reason they have started to engage with someone they suspect is unsafe, they want to end those conversations with that person,” she said.

The foundation is offering free online training for parents called “Sex, lies and media.” They say it’ll help parents open lines of communication with their kids to protect them from predators.

Law Enforcement liaison Misty La Parriere encourages parents to look out for signs.

“I think a lot of times they will be more distant from their parents, or secluding more in their room. Or spending even more time online, or maybe not very open to letting their parents see their phone,” she said.

La Parriere said if you suspect someone’s getting sexually exploited online report it by calling the non-emergency number for your local law enforcement agency.

You can also call the Florida abuse hotline at 1-800-962-2873. If you’re not comfortable with that, you can call Selah directly at 1-888-8-FREE-ME or 1-888-837-3363.