Keeping kids safe from online predators

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — There’s been a big increase in violent crimes against kids in Arkansas.

“Kick, discord, Snapchat, and OnlyFans. Those are kind of our top five right now,”  FBI Supervisory Special Agent, Tonja Sablatura said. “They show up time and time again, in our cases where children are usually the victims.”

In 2019, there were about 30 violent crimes against children cases opened in the natural state. In 2020, they had over 100 cases and so far this year, there have been over 50 cases and it’s not even June.

“Our squad has seen an 100 percent increase in the crimes against children cases,” Sablatura said.

There’s also a huge increase in missing children in Arkansas. Time and time again posters are all across social media.

One of the contributing factors, is something we all use almost everyday.

“I do think a lot of that feeds into the internet,” Sablatura said.

Since the pandemic, predators have targeted children even more through the web.

“As the state makes progress making WiFi and broadband more available to more rural communities and coupled with the fact many schools are doing school remotely,” Sablatura said. “So you have more people on the internet, more kids on the internet and a lot less monitoring from the schools and even parents.”

The more people on the internet means something for predators.

“They have a larger pool of victims to choose from, so it made it substantially easier for them,” Sablatura said.

Once a predator is in, they pretend to be somebody they’re not, whether they play a child around the same age or an adult.

“Person will pretend to be somebody whom they think the person they’re chatting with,” Sablatura said.

Sablatura said they tend to ask simple questions.

“What your hours are? Do you have sisters? Brothers? Where do you go to school? Where do you play sports? All that information is what a predator can use to identify where that person is and then make them into a victim,” Sablatura said.

Once the conversation gets going, they start to move off the grid to encrypted sites that are hard to trace.

“It’s not shocking because it happens every day on these social media platforms which is one reason why parents should monitor,” Parent, Shanelle Smith said.

Smith said it’s concerning to see more predators online since her kids are learning virtually.

“Always hackers,” Smith said. “There’s always people pretending to be like they’re students from their school and it’s just creepy.”

Monday parents are sharing what they do to keep their children safe.

“I try to stay on the computer by him so nothing will pop out or anything like that,” parent, Kenya Morris said.

“I have really intelligent kids, and so they kind of know what to look for already, I really don’t have to tell them. They use their computers strictly for school,” Smith said.

Sablatura offers some advice to parents.

“As a parent, you’ve got to educate your child, get on their devices, look at who they’re chatting to. Talk to them about who they’re chatting to because maybe your child is educated, it may not be a red flag to them but to a parent, it might.”

If you ever witness something, the FBI in Little Rock said feel free to contact them at their office, 501-221-9100.

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