BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Panama City Beach police say parents of millennials are the first generation of “computer parents”.
According to them, 75 percent of children report sharing personal information to strangers online.
“He was 36 and she was 15,” said a woman they interviewed.
She told them her daughter was lured away by a sexual predator. He took her to four different states and “groomed” her.
“He was in the Air Force. He went to church with us and he started communicating with her over Facebook,” the woman said.
According to her, the man told her daughter numerous things to convince her to leave her family.
“You know, ‘You’re beautiful and I want to be with you. If we run away together we can be together, they won’t let us be together,'” she told us.
According to Panama City Beach police, children are at risk every time they go online or use their smartphones.
“If you’re not taking the proper precautions, the proper steps, having those difficult conversations with your child you’re serving them up on a silver platter,” said Lt. J.R. Talamantez with the Panama City Beach Police Department.
Law enforcement officials warn parents about monitoring their childrens’ app use. They say there are the well-known apps; Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and then there are the lesser-known ones.
We went to one site, Omegle, which allows you to either text or video chat with anyone, anonymously.
We talked with a stranger who asked us off the bat if what our age, sex, and location was. We said we were a 13 years-old girl in Florida and then asked them for their information. The stranger wrote back saying they were a male, 30 years old and in the United States. They then asked if that was ok.
That’s how easy it is for your kids to talk to strangers, and potentially sexual predators, online.
“They’re real and they’re actively looking to find your child. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,” said Lt. Talamantez.
If you believe your child is talking with a sexual predator online contact your local law enforcement immediately.