Parents today not only need to worry about strangers approaching their children in real life — they also have to fear their children being contacted online.
And according to the authorities, video games like Fortnite and Minecraft have revealed more opportunities for adult predators to contact minors.
State Attorney General Furbir Grewal warned the public earlier this week that those seeking to take advantage of young teens and children have plenty more options to do so than ever before.
This warning came after the announcement of the arrests of 24 alleged predators.
“It is a frightening reality that sexual predators are lurking on social media, ready to strike if they find a child who is vulnerable,” Grewal said in regards to how the 24 suspects were attempting to illicit sex with teenagers.
The suspects were all men, with no particular common age group or demographic.
Some of the police sergeants posed as teenagers to capture the suspects.
Grewal shared that what they found was the men taking advantage of not just one app, but many — allowing them to reach out to children.
But in this case, the men who thought they were chatting with 14 and 15-year-old boys and girls were actually talking to detectives with the New Jersey State Police’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
The task force trains its detectives to keep and operate online profiles on a variety of apps that are known for hooking up, such as Tinder and Grindr. But Grewal said it is not just hook-up apps that predators are using.
Alleged child predators that had been arrested were using apps like Kik, Wishbone, Tumblr to communicate as well as video games including Fortnite, Minecraft and Discord.
What is the draw with these types of apps? The chat area.
“These arrests serve as a sobering reminder that parents should closely monitor their child’s online activity,” State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan said on Tuesday.
Apps like Tinder have age restrictions of 18+ but users can enter a birth date that is either younger or older than they actually are.
But it may surprise some to find that the app was not always adult-only.
It wasn’t until June of 2016 that a user only had to be 13 to sign up.
The company eventually changed this requirement after parents complained according to parentinfo.com.
Other social apps like Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat also have minimum age requirements of 13.
But these apps do not have a secure way of keeping children off, as a child may access the app if they can figure out a birthday that would make them older than the required age.
Authorities encourage parents to talk to their child about what apps they use as well as when talking to others, differentiating what is appropriate and what is not appropriate.
“If children appear anxious of evasive when the topic is raised, it may be a red flag,” Grewal said to NJ.com
“It’s critical that parents talk to their children about social media and chat apps to let them know that the people they encounter may not be who they initially seemed to be.”
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