Preventing Kids From Becoming Victims of Social Media Predators

NBC 6 investigates the predators who use social media apps to target children. In fact, they could be chatting with your children when you're in the same room.

Any parent knows as active as kids can be, it's hard to keep them away from their phones and social media.

Eireen Heidleberg keeps a close eye on who her kids chat with and what apps they use, "At any time, I can pick it up and see who they're speaking to and I also follow all their social media feeds."

The FBI said it's okay for parents to be nosy, because predators are reaching out to kids through social media apps like Instagram, Kik, Snapchat and ooVoo.

"We are seeing more and more predators that are using these apps to target kids, to coerce them, to con them in to sending images," said FBI Special Agent Wes Tagtmeyer, who investigates child exploitation crimes. "They're certainly not telling kids, 'Hey, I'm a predator looking to do you harm.' They may tell them that, 'Hey, I'm another kid.'"

Investigators said Daniel Dunfee of Florida targeted victims using Kik and Snapchat. He's accused of soliciting photos from two teen girls in Illinois, then threatening them in to sending more. Investigators located eight victims across the country.

Dunfee is in jail facing multiple criminal counts. He pleaded not guilty. The FBI calls this growing crime "sextortion."

"The subject comes back and says, 'If you don't do this or send a more explicit image or video for me, then I'm going to send this image to your parents,'" Tagtmeyer explained.

Ashley Reynolds told the FBI she was 14 when she was victimized by Lucas Michael Chansler, "He was not going to stop and he was set on sharing my picture with whoever he could."

Chansler pleaded guilty to child porn in 2014.

The social media app ooVoo told NBC 6 it takes security issues seriously and said its users must be at least 13 years of age.

Meantime, the FBI said the average age of a "sextortion" victim is 14, and they've investigated victims as young as eight.

The FBI recommends to protect your kids: Don't charge mobile devices in their bedroom at night, set up passwords for downloading apps and talk to them about the dangers of communicating and sending photos to people they don't know.

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