Experts: Electronics may open homes to predators

Posted at 8:53 AM, Dec 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-16 09:53:30-05

TULSA - Electronics remain at the top of the wish lists this Christmas for many children, but experts warn parents to think about safety before buying any devices for their kids.

"He really wants a tablet," McKenzie Bruner said about her two-year-old son, "so that he can play games with Yo Gabba Gabba and different Spiderman games online."

She said that concerns her because most of the devices, applications and games require them to share personal information.

"I worry about different people getting our information and putting it online for different scary things," Bruner said.

That fear became realized this month when someone hacked toymaker VTech and exposed the data of more than six million children.

"The Internet and technology are part of culture now. It's not going away," Nick Chaffin said. "Just be mindful, be careful, watch what your kids are doing and be there for them."

Chaffin is an OSBI special agent working for the Internet Crimes Against Children unit.

"Anywhere that kids like to go," he added, "that's where predators like to go."

He said parents should especially be aware of any device that can connect to the Internet. Many video game consoles have that ability and can allow kids to play along and interact with other users, some who may be predators.

"It's incredibly easy for the predators to make contact with children," Chaffin said. "It's just important that if something does happen with the child, that they talk to their parents and that the parents are available for their child to talk to them."

Bruner said it's easy to monitor her son's activity online since he's only two.

"I have to do a lot for him," she said. "He can't type yet -- thank God, so I'll be on it with him 100 percent of the time."

She, however, said safety will always be a factor no matter what gift she leaves him under the tree.

Chaffin said that last year law enforcement arrested more than 8,000 people across the country for sexual, Internet-related crimes against children. He said the OSBI had 830 reports here in Oklahoma alone, and he expects that number to go up every year.

He asks families to immediately report any incidents to law enforcement.


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