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Social Networking Sites a New Way to Target Kids

Many Americans use social networking sites such as My Space or Facebook to find old friends, or make new ones. Today’s teenagers and even younger children are no exception. However, as technology becomes more savvy, so do the techniques of on-line predators. KSMU’s Theresa Carter talked with a spokesperson of an Ozarks organization working with the families of missing children, and has more.

“My Space, Facebook, Twitter…the list goes on and on.For many of us, keeping up with new trends on these social networking sites can be tricky. Yet child predators are rising to this challenge. And keeping up with their new techniques to lure kids is even more difficult. Brent Weaver is a spokesperson for the Morgan Nick Foundation, an organization that helps prevent child abductions. Although Facebook says children must be at least 13 years old to have their own account, Weaver explains this is not always the case.

"I can say this. Last year when I spoke to 5th, 6th, and 7th grade, asking them how many had a Facebook or My Space account, as many as 75-80% raised their hand indicating they had an account."

Weaver says he learned of a recent incident in Mt. Home, AR in which several 7th grade girls accidentally became acquainted with a child predator on Facebook. One of the girls had accidentally made contact with him by simply misspelling a friend’s name.

Weaver says that anyone on Facebook, or other similar sites, should use caution with what kind of information is placed on their pages. School names, addresses, and other identifying personal information should not be posted. Weaver further cautions about what is in the pictures that are posted.

"You look into the background and see if there is a street name or residential address showing in the pictures. Because that is a definite target for predators to show up at a person's residence."

Weaver suggests that parents need to be very aware of their childrens’ activities on-line. Some of the basic safeguards include keeping the computer in a main room of the house where parents are present, and by using parental controls that monitor and limit a child’s access to certain internet sites. He also suggests that parents contact their local cell phone or internet providers to find out more about having duplicate messages of their childrens’ computer activities sent to their cell phones or email.

The Morgan Nick Foundation was founded in 1996 after a 6-year-old girl by the same name was abducted from a ball field in Alma, Arkansas. 14 Years later she is still missing. For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Carter.

For more information about preventing child abductions:

(877) 543-4673 www.morgannick.com