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National Children's Advocacy Center talks social media dangers after Huntsville man charged in rape

The advocacy center says parents need to start a conversation with their kids about how to use social media.

Posted: Jan 24, 2020 8:03 PM

Police in central Alabama say a Huntsville man used Snapchat to lure a 13-year-old girl to meet him.

Rodrigo Ortega is now facing multiple charges, including rape and interference with custody.

Tips led investigators to a house on Joslin Street in west Huntsville where they found Ortega and the 13-year-old who had been missing since Tuesday until she was found Thursday.

The National Children's Advocacy Center said all parents should have a conversation with their child about social media.

Jennifer Beraun, a mom who lives in Huntsville, said hearing about the missing girl's situation was hard for her, and she hopes no other parents or children have to go through something like that.

"That breaks my heart," she said.

Beraun said hearing about what happened reinforces why she doesn’t let her kids use social media.

"I wouldn't allow them to have that stuff on their phone because they need to be focused on their books," she said.

Beth Jackson, a therapist at the National Children's Advocacy Center, said parents need to be clear with their children about the dangers of social media.

"There needs to be a lot of conversations, and it needs to begin really, really early about what those expectations are as soon as they're getting on tablets or they're getting their phones," she said.

Jackson said so many kids get a hold of a smart phone at a young age, so parents need to make sure they are monitoring them and explaining the dangers.

"It's kind of like putting children in a room with all these unlocked doors, closed, but unlocked, and saying 'don't go in there' without really explaining why," she added.

Jackson said each case involving a predator interfering with the custody of a child is handled differently, but the Department of Human Resources could get involved.

"That's a case by case basis. Sometimes DHR might be involved in that. It just sometimes depends on what happened," she said.

Beraun said she hopes this is a wake up to all parents to pay attention to what their child is doing.

"It goes back down to the parent. Parent needs to do all the monitoring," she said.

The investigation involved Huntsville Police, the Madison County Sheriff's Office along with the FBI and Pelham Police. It's unclear when the teen and the man she was found with started communicating.

The sheriff's office said the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville helped with the follow-up for the case. The advocacy center said half the cases it sees involve a electronic or social media component.

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