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Protecting your children: tech safety
(La Voz photo by Amber Feese)

By Bertha Velasquez

A key mission for any parent is to keep their children safe, but with ever changing technology doing so can become more complicated.

Parents today not only have to wonder about the types of conversations their children are having with their friends through their cell phone over a telephone call or text — mostly the latter — or online via email or social networking sites. There are new venues for anyone to connect, which can pose a danger for youths if they, and their parents, do not become better informed.

A popular form of socializing for youth and adults alike are apps, which can be downloaded onto your cell phone. Instagram is a popular app that allows you to filter and post photos onto a variety of other social networks, but like other social networks, it too can pose a danger for youths if they are not careful about the information they post.

“Teenagers, and adults as well, should be very cautious when joining sites such as Instagram,” said District Attorney Pete Weir of Jefferson and Gilpin counties through a warning by the First Judicial District Attorney’s Child Sex Offender Internet Investigations (CHEEZO) Unit. “Consider the personal information you are posting online. This information, as well as photos, becomes public for anyone to see.”

Snapchat, another photo app, lets users take photos however, these images last only for 10 seconds at most before by disappeared. The app itself can be a way for users to take silly photos without having to worry about embarrassing photos that can last a lifetime online. Yet, it can be a gateway for child predators to take inappropriate photos and share them with unsuspecting youths.

Along those same lines, some teens that think they can avoid any possible negative repercussions may utilize apps such as these ones to engage in sexting.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the 18th Judicial District Attorney held a joint press conference last month in hope of engaging parents to become aware about the apps that their children are downloading on their phone thus preventing the possibility of “exploitation, assault and murder” of their children.

“There’s child prostitution, trafficking, sexual assaults and exploitation — and it’s all coming from the phone apps,” Undersheriff Tony Spurlock, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, said. “We worry that kids are going to be kidnapped, raped and killed meeting anonymous people.”

There are things you can do to ensure the safety of your children and yourself. The 18th Judicial District Attorney and Undersheriff said:

“Parents need to know what apps are on their kids’ electronic devices, such as smart phones, iPads, iPods, and electronic readers, and know what information those apps collect and send out about their children.”

“Parents need to know the passwords to review the photos and read the emails and texts.”

“Parents should block location services on the devices and warn kids about meeting strangers and giving out personal information such as phone numbers, addresses and school names.”

“Parents need to know it’s a felony crime for children to take sexually explicit pictures of themselves and to send them to anyone.”

While the ultimate purpose of these and other social networks is just to provide an avenue for people to connect in various forms, parents and youths need to be aware that in signing up to use them could potentially set yourself up for trouble if you are not educated about protecting yourself online and on your cell phone.





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