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Parents/guardians: Be vigilant with kids

Since the beginning of time, children have found ways to act just outside their parents’ awareness. Rapidly changing technology makes that easier — and much more dangerous. Still, most parents try their best to keep an eye on their children’s online activities.

This week, we learned of a case in Little Hocking, a tiny settlement located along the Ohio River. A 23-year-old man there allegedly communicated with a local child via Instagram, arranged a meeting — paying off a younger sibling not to talk — before raping the older child. The photo the man allegedly used on Instagram makes him appear much younger than his true age.

“They get befriended by someone that they think is similar in age to them, but that person may not even look like the photos they’re posting online or be the same age,” said Capt. Brian Rhodes of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

It is essential for parents to stay as up-to-speed as possible with communication technology, but more importantly, with what is accessible to their own children. And it is essential that parents carefully talk with their kids about what they are doing online, what apps are on their devices (not just phones, but video game consoles, computers, tablets … everything.)

Remember the naturdal curiosity you had as a kid? Hey, we all had a degree of it. It is timeless. Nothing has changed. The only difference now is that social media and all of its sometimes tragic trappings wasn’t around then as it is now. In spades. It can be downright dangerous.

Advice for parents and guardians: “Not coming at it like they’re getting in trouble, talk about what they use and why they use it, what do they enjoy?” said Doug Pfeifer, executive director of behavioral health firm Life and Purpose Services. “Reassure that they’re not in trouble, ‘I’m curious about your experiences and what you use it for’ is a good way to open that discussion to what they want out of that (platform).”

Such conversations should happen repeatedly. This is not a one-time discussion, no matter how difficult it is to remain so vigilant. Predators are not reducing their efforts.

Our kids need our help to avoid them and ward them off. Talk to them. Today.

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