Experts warn parents about online stranger danger

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — November is Child Safety and Protection Month and experts are sharing safety tips about stranger danger happening online.

“The old stranger danger approach to things is, really and truly, you shouldn’t be communicating with people you don’t know on these platforms,” says Brian Johnston, special agent in charge for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit.

A study released by the Journal of the American Medical Association on Monday shows that adolescents spent nearly eight-hours daily in front of a screen since the start of the pandemic — nearly double pre-pandemic screen time rates.

“Adults and children both were at home a lot more and on the internet a lot more,” Special Agent Brian Johnston said.

The GBI Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit says cyber tips for illegal internet activity went up in 2020.

“Last year we did see a significant increase in the number of cyber tips we received from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,” says Johnston.

He says they’ve seen a steady increase in cyber tips over the past several years.

“Back at the end of 2012, we were seeing roughly 2-to-3,000 cyber tips that came in a year for Georgia and last year we received almost 12,000,” Johnston said.

Johnston says predators now have more opportunities to take advantage of young people online.

“There is a certain percentage of the time that there’s going to be a predator out there that’s going to take advantage of that kid,” says Johnston.

Parents can take steps to protect their kids.

“pay attention to the chats back and forth, any photographs that are being sent back and forth on those types of applications,” says Johnston.

Special Agent Johnston says parents can help keep their children safe by learning about the social media sites they’re using and making sure kids accounts are set to private.

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