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Kids Online: Children need help to avoid dangers

Since the beginning of time, children have found ways to act just outside their parents’ awareness. Rapidly changing technology makes that easier — and much more dangerous. Still, most Mid-Ohio Valley parents try their best to keep an eye on their children’s online activities.

This week, we learned of a case in Little Hocking, in which a 23-year-old man allegedly communicated with a local child via Instagram, arranged a meeting — paid off a younger sibling not to talk — and then raped the older child. The photo the man allegedly used on Instagram makes him appear much younger than his true age.

“They get befriended by someone that they think is similar in age to them, but that person may not even look like the photos they’re posting online or be the same age,” said Capt. Brian Rhodes of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

It is essential for parents to stay as up-to-speed as possible with communication technology, but more importantly, with what is accessible to THEIR children. And it is essential that parents carefully talk with their kids about what they are doing online, what apps are on their devices (not just phones, but video game consoles, computers, tablets … everything.)

“Not coming at it like they’re getting in trouble, talk about what they use and why they use it, what do they enjoy?” said Doug Pfeifer, executive director of behavioral health firm Life and Purpose Services. “Reassure that they’re not in trouble, ‘I’m curious about your experiences and what you use it for’ is a good way to open that discussion to what they want out of that (platform).”

Such conversations should happen repeatedly. This is not a one-time discussion, no matter how difficult it is to remain so vigilant. Predators are not reducing their efforts.

Our kids need our help to avoid them and ward them off. Talk to them. Today.

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