Online dangers parents & kids need to know

New Orleans (WGNO) - Friday, we heard from teens, talking about the problems they know they face online, but Cyber Crimes Expert Anthony Jones shows us what else parents and teens need to watch for.

Teens practically live on social media, but do they know who they’re actually socializing with?

“A lot of our online predators are using social media apps where you can’t verify the age – they interact with these children and gain their trust by acting like they’re one of their peers by acting like they’re from a school nearby," said Jones.

And today, young romance seems to blossom with racy photos, instead of roses. A frightening, hi-tech form of flirting that can quickly get out of hand.

"Once that’s sent, it’s like a bullet from a gun. You can’t retrieve it, you can’t get it back. That person can share it with anyone that they want to, then you have online predators contacting the child, saying 'I want you to do this. I have this image. I know who you are. I know where you are. If you don’t do what I want I am going to expose this to everyone in your community, including your family.' And for some children that threat is real enough that they’ll actually follow through with the demands of the predator," said Jones.

Then some teens choose to send out suggestive material to an audience.

“Normally in these scenarios, the victim themselves has taken the picture and they send it out to individuals. In this situation we had a teen and a preteen, and they were taking images of themselves and they had sent it out. And it didn’t start off as nudes, it started as provocative photos. They liked the positive attention, so they made them a little more provocative, until it passed the inappropriate point. And they sent out a lot for these pictures. They sent them out to anyone who wanted to see them via anonymous messaging apps, and that positive feedback is what they were looking for and then they got to where they were dependent on it. It made them feel good about themselves, it’s how they validated themselves," said Jones. 

But kids can face charges for putting out inappropriate photos.

"If you’re under the age of 17 you are not allowed to send an inappropriate image of yourself by any electronic means. That’s the definition of sexting. It’s a misdemeanor but it’s still a law that applies to the sender and the receiver. And in some situations when the receiver is past the age of 17 -- it falls over into the child pornography area. Because they’re receiving inappropriate images from a 15-year-old. Yes they’re sending it consensually but it’s still child pornography," said Jones.

If your kid is exposed, either by a predator or cyberbullies spreading an image, contact the police right away. 

"With traditional bullying face to face – the victim is embarrassed in front of 15 maybe 20 people With cyber bullying because of friends lists and the amount of attention people have on their Facebook page and other social media it could be hundreds – possibly in the thousands. Once it gets online, people are going to pick it up and start sharing it – so if you can get it early on that’s best," said Jones.

Jones also says if you go to the police, it doesn’t necessarily mean that changes needs to be filed.
That’s up to the victim, but police can investigate, get all parties involved and hopefully get it stopped.