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Online Social Networking Dangers: How To Protect Your Kids

It's a great way to connect, but online social networking.
is also a portal for criminals to get to you and your children.

It happened recently in Beaufort County where a mother discovered her 12-year-old daughter was having sexual conversations on Facebook with a 21-year-old man. Thanks to her report to police, the man was arrested in Colorado and charged with attempted child sexual assault, but these predators aren't always caught.

"He kind of formed an online dating relationship where they chatted a lot and he eventually led in with the pictures."

Cpl. Webb is talking about a man's Facebook conversation with an 11-year-old Pitt County girl. He was able to talk the girl into sending him graphic, nude photos.

"We also found out he was not the age he said he was. He appeared to be a tween type age and we found out he was actually in his 40s."

Investigators also found out the man lived in India, and even though local police and deputies have made hundreds of arrests for internet crimes- they were powerless in this case where it appears the man's actions are not considered a crime in his country.

"We don't have any power in a foreign nation and it's tough enough working state to state on cases," said Webb.

The man was never charged and the girl's pictures are still out there on the world wide web.

"You're not just opening your kid up to the people that live in Pitt County which is still 180,000 people. You're opening up your child to 6 billion people worldwide," said Webb

The girl victim in the case is not on Facebook anymore, but millions of children are. Facebook terms of service require members to be at least 13 years old to set up an account. However, a recent Consumer Reports survey shows as many as 7.5 million Facebook users are under 13, and two-thirds of those kids are under 10. Besides the statement in the Facebook rules, there's no further verification required.

Cathy Evans of Ayden says her 14-year-old daughter started asking about Facebook when she was 11, and she helped her daughter create a page when she was 12.

"Many times I think to myself you don't even need to have a Facebook. Let's stop it all together, but children use it and adults use it to network and send messages to each other- invite to parties and all kinds of stuff. So, it's a good social tool if it's used right, and for teenagers monitored properly," said Evans.

Cathy says she checks Kinsley's page every day- telling her who she can accept as a friend and who she can't.

"The computer is right in living room in a central area and I have her messenger on my i phone so every message that comes on her Facebook I see it," said Evans.

She says potential predators have tried to friend her daughter.

April Davis: "Have any older boys or men tried to friend your daughter?

Cathy: "There have been older people on Facebook and we have addressed that as well and eliminated those too. So yeah it happens -definitely."

Cathy has Safe Eyes software which blocks inappropriate material from popping up, and Kinsley's Facebook page is private. We asked Detective Webb to take a look at her computer. He only found one setting to change.

"There's an option here that will let friends check you in using their devices. So a friend of yours- if you checked in at school they could check you in there. I disabled that so that people can't check you in places because it's no one's business where you are," Webb explained to Kinsley.

Detective Webb showed Cathy how to use free software provided through the SBI Internet Crimes Against Children task force.

"You can go through images. You can go through documents, videos, the internet explorer history and it also works for firefox," said Webb

The software can even e-mail a parent if your child uses words or names you want to be alerted about. Cathy said sign her up.

Kinsley: "So you're giving her this?"
Det. Webb: "Yes."
Kinsley: "Great. Wonderful"
Cathy: "Further lockdown. Additional lockdown"

Additional lockdown that will continue to keep what Kinsley sees online- innocent, and possibly save her from a tragic situation.

Police say it's best if your child doesn't have a Facebook page, but if your child is on Facebook make sure they only have friends they know and their page is set private to friends only.

In a Consumer Reports survey last year only 18-percent of parents of teens on Facebook said they look at their child's page.


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