NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – FBI Assistant Special Agent in charge of the Nashville agency, Matthew Foster, has a message for parents, “You can not turn your kid loose on the internet in 2020 and just assume that someone is out there protecting them.”
Smartphones are a powerful resource in the palm of their small hands. Authorities at the state and local levels have seen a spike in sex crimes against children and they need help from parents and guardians to combat the problem.
Detectives Michael Adkins and Robert Carrigan, with Metro’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit (ICAC), think phones play a part in the problem.
“It’s getting greater because we have allowed more access to our children because we give them those devices,” Adkins said.
The detective duo wishes parents would recognize the prevalent problem as children younger and younger browse the internet engaging with strangers around the world.
“The best thing parents can do is stop giving your eight-year-old a smartphone. There’s no reason for a child that young to have a smartphone,” Adkins said.
Passwords and Friend Requests
ICAC deals with roughly 270 cases a year. Many times, a lack of supervision leads to unspeakable crimes. “It always stuns me how many parents don’t know the passwords to their kid’s devices,” Carrigan said.
If you don’t know it, authorities say, you should.
In fact, detectives say children and teens should have adult permission to access everything.
“Choke that point down so they have to come to you to get an app,” Carrigan explained. “And, if they’re adding an app to their phone, add the app on your phone.”
Set up your own account, get familiar with it, and learn the features. Parents should always be friends with teens on social media sites.
“If kids are not willing to let you see their profile, there’s probably a reason they don’t want to let you see it,” Carrigan said.
There are other free safeguards such as built-in security filters on search engines and apps. This will help block inappropriate content before it causes a problem.
Other software costs money but gives parents a fuller look at what’s going on online.
“You can check-in and get a snapshot of activity at any given time, it’s one of the simplest ways and very few people actually use that,” Carrigan said.
Placing Time Limitations
Another suggestion from detectives would be placing time limitations on phone use and sticking to it.
“Under no circumstance should kids have their phone with them at night…buy them an alarm clock,” Adkins said.
And be aware, there are apps that look harmless but allow kids to hide photos and videos. Most importantly, if you suspect something, report it.
Adkins says it’s better to be safe than sorry, “I would rather look into something and find out nothing is going on than somebody not say something and another child gets hurt.”