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Parents, be vigilant when it comes to technology

Most Mid-Ohio Valley parents try their best to keep an eye on their children’s online activities. But 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.

This week, we learned of a case 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. It is something that could happen more quickly than most parents want to think.

“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 that parents keep themselves 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 open up conversation about what children 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).”

It can be difficult to be so vigilant, but parents must be — repeatedly. Certainly 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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