Middle and high schoolers are more likely to fall victim to online predators

Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 5:38 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Cellphones, tablets, and computers can connect millions of people all by the click of a button. but that can leave our youth vulnerable to online predators.

Many kids use social media sites like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok to have fun and connect with friends but it also leaves them vulnerable to online predators.

Predators who use the virtual world to find their victims will often message young people with the purpose of obtaining explicit pictures or luring teens into meeting in person.

Kids in middle and high school are the age group most likely to encounter an online predator. The Youth Internet Safety Survey says one in seven adolescents will be contacted by an online predator.

“They look for acceptance and they’re also trying to figure out who they are. So, they want to look and see, somebody may say something to them that is quite faltering, you look very pretty or for guys you look like you really work out, things like that. So, kids are more susceptible, they don’t have the life experience of adults saying hey this is somebody who’s trying to get something from me,” said Sergeant Scott Sitzes, supervisor for school resource officers with the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office.

Having conversations about online safety can prevent predators from gaining access to children. One tip is to not accept messages or friend requests from people they haven’t met in person.

Law enforcement has also seen an increase in sextortion among adolescents. This is a tactic where predators will coerce their victims to send explicit images with the intention of blackmailing them for money.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report, they received more than 18,000 sextortion-related complaints, with losses more than $13.6 million in 2021.

Sitzes added, “So, we’ve seen an increase in that happening and even if they send, let’s say they do send money, they will ask for more after they’ve sent it. So, we’ve seen an increase in that, nationally we are seeing some horrible consequences of that up to and including suicide.”

Additionally, Sitzes says the best way for parents to protect their kids is by monitoring who they are talking to by checking their phones or installing parental control apps that can prevent their kids from accessing certain sites.