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WAAY 31 I-Team Investigation: FBI warns about online predator danger to children

According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, 1 in 5 U.S teenagers who regularly log onto the internet say they have received unwanted sexual solicitation via the web. Research from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children shows 75 percent of children are willing to share personal information online about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services.

Posted: Sep. 27, 2018 5:24 PM
Updated: Oct. 15, 2018 2:32 PM

Agents arrested twenty-four men in New Jersey accused of trying to lure children for sex on popular online apps and video games. All of the suspects joined games and apps with chat room features that allowed them to talk to their targets. 

Mother Emily Perry told WAAY 31 she monitors her son's online activity now, closer than ever before. Recently, her son had a scare while playing an online video game that allowed him to interact with other players.

"He was playing Roblox and they kept asking, accept my request, accept my request, as in a friend request. So I accept the request and think it's just a normal age child like he is, and come to find out it's a woman. She was like, you can come to my house and play," said Perry.

According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, 1 in 5 U.S teenagers who regularly log onto the internet say they have received unwanted sexual solicitation via the web. Research from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children shows 75 percent of children are willing to share personal information online about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services.

Special agent with the FBI Scott Pierre deals with the worst of the worst child exploitation cases in our region. He said more than half of them typically begin with the predator making contact with a child online.

"All the video game systems now have the ability to play online, and kids love to do that. My own kids love to do that themselves. They want to play against other kids, they want to compete against other kids. The issue is the same that we see with these social media apps; you don't always know who the other person is on the other game system," said FBI Special Agent, Scott Pierre. 

In Perry's case, she blocked the adult who tried to make contact with her child and no longer allows her son to play interactive video games, unless she is sitting right next to him. FBI agents told WAAY 31 you should not allow your children to play interactive video games unsupervised. They also reinforce that they should never accept an online friend request from someone they don't personally know.

Experts also offer the following advice:

-Keep the computer in a high-traffic area of your home.

-Establish limits for which online sites children may visit and for how long.

-Remember that Internet technology can be mobile, so make sure to monitor cell phones, gaming devices and laptops.

-Surf the Internet with your children, and let them show you what they like to do online.

-Know who is connecting with your children online and set rules for social networking, instant messaging, e-mailing, online gaming and using webcams.

-Continually dialogue with your children about online safety.

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