JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Dangerous strangers are reaching out to kids across a variety of apps – and many parents have no idea it’s happening or how to prevent it.
Tuesday night, the FBI Jacksonville talked to dozens of Duval County parents to learn what to look for. It was a room full of parents who care about their kids and are trying to protect them. But some don’t know how.
“I thought, I don’t know what I’m looking for. I knew I needed to be looking, but I didn’t know what I needed to be looking for,” said Heather Kenney, a parent at the presentation.
Kenney is a mom of 11 - and 12-year-old boys.
“My kids are naïve and they just trust,” she said.
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FBI agents showed parents how easy it is for sex offenders to target children through the latest technology and social media. From mobile apps like Snapchat to online chatrooms. And even online video games, where kids can team up with strangers and even voice chat one-on-one.
Action News Jax asked Kenney if she knew what those apps are. She replied, “No, I didn’t. And that’s the point, and one point I had tears in my eyes because I felt so overwhelmed and I thought these people have access to my kids and I’m trying everything to keep them safe, and these people are actively working to harm my kids.”
What’s really scary for Kenney and other parents are apps that appear to be one thing – but are actually hiding something else.
“Like the example they gave was a calculator, it looks like a calculator app, but when you open it up, you can go underneath it and there’s ways to share pics and videos and ways to have conversations that I would never know,” she said.
Parents said it’s a struggle, but they know they have to do it.
“I feel like, I feel like swimming hard to try and keep up, and I’ll never keep up, but I have to keep swimming,” said Kenney.
The FBI also told parents to go to the app store and what’s trending, see what those hidden app trends are.
The FBI shared a link on how kids can recognize and respond to online dangers.
The FBI is going to have another presentation Wednesday night at 6 at Our Lady Star of the Sea Cultural Center. It’s free and open to the public.
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