How Parents Can Protect Kids From Online Predators

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) -- June is internet safety month, and one parent breaks down how kids are targeted and what she's doing to make sure it doesn't happen to her own kids.

Erika Finnestead owns a social media business and is on the internet 24/7. She knows firsthand how kids can be influenced by targeted ads, but she says it's the same way with online predators.

"It is something that i think about constantly, that i research constantly," Finnestead says.

A recent scare with her son has her watching him extra close on social media. "I looked and he was talking to a girl who I had never met she had a lot of adult problems, we directed her to somebody and I told Matthew, you're 12 you're not an adult if something like that happens again you come to me."

But with constantly changing forms of online communication with things like video games, kids can find themselves talking with strangers. A new study from tech security company McAfee finds the average child will play online for more than two hours a day this summer.

"A lot of time these parents don't know they're building relationships on Fortnite, on Call of Duty, Halo, Destiny, because you can constantly interact," Finnestead says.

Something that terrifies her.

"These online predators are trying to build relationships with kids at a younger and younger age because they have access to them."

"You can get to anything on the internet and to anyone," says John Ahrends, Resident Agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Fayetteville.

And says most parents don't have firewalls or settings in place to protect their kids online. But the most powerful tool, "build a strong relationship with your child to be able to have those discussions. If there's something going on in their life involving the internet, if someone's contacting them, making inappropriate comments, or asking for inappropriate photos."

A proactive move that Finnestead is proud of.

"I stalk my child on Instagram because I want to know what he's doing, what he's liking, he'll sit next to me and we'll scroll Instragram together to see what he's into," Finnestead says.

Homeland security holds several different variations of internet safety trainings for schools and parents. To request a training, call 479-527-7200 to speak with a supervisor. P.A.C.T or Parents Against Child Trafficking also holds training sessions. 

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