After Whisper arrest, sheriff tells parents to lock down kid's phones

August 25, 2017 06:40 PM

Livingston County Sheriff Tom Dougherty wants parents to lock down your kids' phones.

The sheriff arrested a Webster man Thursday for allegedly using an app to lure a minor. But is locking down your teen's phone really practical?

Livingston County Sheriff Tom Dougherty: "It's just a different world that we live in now. Years ago communication was person-to-person and it was dangerous enough. They're (kids) not at a mature level to even know sometimes what they're doing. And it's very important that parents be parents and monitors them very closely."

Working at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Pam Weaver knows all about the dangers of online predators.

Pam Weaver, NCMEC: "They need to decide at what age is my child ready for a mobile device. And they should really check every app that their child is downloading before they download it to see, are there safety features?"

She encourages parents to monitor their children's activities -- but be careful not to overreact.

Pam Weaver, NCMEC: "I don’t encourage parents to just take away media because children are very engaged on how they communicate."

And try to have an open communication.

Pam Weaver, NCMEC: "Parents should be honest and say 'I am checking on what you'll be doing. I'm going to be looking at what kinds of things you post. What kinds of pictures you share because I care about you -- that's my job."

There are also apps out there that you can use to monitor not just your children's web history -- but also read their texts, screen phone calls and get their exact location.

But how effective can these be? Working in law enforcement, Trooper Robert Chapman knows danger is only a scroll away.

Trooper Robert Chapman: "My sons know that the phone isn’t theirs. And I supply the phone therefore at any moment the phone can be taken away and it has, again it's an incentive tool sometimes as a parent."

He encourages parents to learn about apps kids nowadays use to help set boundaries. "You can go to YouTube and just type a question in about Snapchat and how it works. Or Whisper or any of these apps that kids are using a lot of," Trooper Chapman said.

There are also apps like Net Nanny that allow you to control your kids' internet activity wherever you are. Other apps like SecureTeen can do more: it lets you know who your kids are calling, and who's calling them. You can also read their texts.

Another app TeenSafe also tracks text messages and calls. It can also tell you your child's exact GPS location.

Jeremy Sarachan is the Chair of Media and Communication Department at St. John Fisher College. He says, “I think in some ways trying to shut everything down just doesn't work… It gets very tricky when you just cut everything off and try to sort of say nope - I as a parent know what you should see."

At the end of the day -- it all boils down to parenting style and the kind of relationship you have with your kids. “Each parent would have to look at it and consider not just on a practical level but also sort of in a philosophical level do each of these individual features sort of reconcile with the way I parent,” says Sarachan.

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Nina Porciuncula

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