Experts urge predator awareness as children spend more time online

RICHLAND, Wash. — For families spending more time at home, chances are you and your children are spending more hours online. To keep your children safe, now might be a good time to talk about online predators.

Richland Police Crime Prevention Specialist Cerise Peck is encouraging parents to take time to discuss the reality of online predators with their children.

“It certainly increases the opportunity for a predator to contact a kid when a kid is spending more time online,” said Peck.

We’re living in a digital age and the internet is a great tool for children to learn, but it’s also a tool for predators to learn about children.

Peck says your child’s age should determine how you discuss online predators, but it’s crucial to have the conversation about apps and online communication.

“Predators have been know to use apps that are popular with kids and they will often pose as a child to communicate with a child,” said Peck.

After discussing which apps children are using and with whom, Peck recommends normalizing no electronics at night.

Another scenario where children are vulnerable to predators is when they sneak out at night. If your child is a teenager who has been cooped up inside all day, they may be looking for things to do outside.

West Richland Police says they’ve seen multiple teens hanging out at parks at night. West Richland Police Administrative Sargent Terry Boehmler says even though there is no curfew, outside is not always the safest place to hang out.

“Knowledge is power and it could be the power to keep yourself out of trouble, or recognizing there is trouble coming around the corner, or what can bring about trouble,” said Boehmler.

 

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Just last weekend West Richland Police arrested two level 3 sex offenders who were trespassing at Flat Top Park in West Richland. Wrfb

Education on the dangers of being at a park at night or using the internet is the first step in preventing crimes against children.

If you are looking for ways to educate yourself, your children, co-workers, teachers, etc. on how to recognize an online predator or how to start the conversation, visit the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program website. 

If you suspect your child is talking to a online predator, call non-emergency dispatch or report suspicion of child sexual exploitation to the
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline or call 1-800-843-5678.