How to protect your child from online predators or bullies

How to protect your child from online predators or bullies

RICHLAND, Wash. -- New apps come out every day, and the new technologies can be hard to keep up with. But the Richland Police Department says it’s up to parents to stay educated for their children's safety, and they’re willing to help.

“Once you hit ‘start chat,’ it says ‘you're chatting with a random stranger, say hi,’ Crime Prevention Specialist Cerise Peck said as she explained chat website, Omegle. “And within minutes, you could have live footage of something you don't want your child to see.”

Omegle is a website you've maybe never heard of. But Richland Police are offering classes to teach parents how kids and teens are using technology today.

“There was a grown man down in Florida that was posing as a teenager,” Peck said. “And was able to convince some females to send inappropriate photos, and once he obtained those photos he was able to blackmail them. That’s really common; t's called sextortion.”

The classes are called the Screenshot Series, and they teach how apps work, and how predators and bullies can misuse even common apps like Instagram.

“Any app that has the capability to upload content, so any app that has a direct message feature has the capability to be misused,” Peck said.

The series gives tips like how to monitor your child's accounts, how to have open discussions, and what to do if you suspect something is wrong.

“I feel like when the class is over there's this dark cloud,” Peck said. “Because it can be some dark information, but I think it's a realization that this type of crime is out there.”

Peck suggests talking to kids about internet safety as soon as kindergarten.

"You need to be the gatekeeper of the phone, of the tablet, and you need to check,” she said. “It starts at home. Absolutely the message starts at home. You have to go into their phones, see who they're communication with and make sure it's appropriate."

If you want the series to come to your school, church, or group, just reach out to the Richland Police Department.

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