Missouri child advocacy group urges caution for kids on social media

Updated: Feb. 23, 2022 at 4:50 AM CST
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QUINCY (WGEM) - Experts say the danger posed by online predators has only grown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those at the Child Advocacy Center of Northeast Missouri said a young girl in the Hannibal area was attacked by someone she first met through social media a couple of weeks ago.

Executive director Julie Seymore said five other attacks have taken place over the past two weeks, most of them around the city of Wentzville, just outside of St. Louis.

Seymore said because kids live in a more digitally connected world with all sorts of options to connect with people across the globe, it does expose them to the dangers of the internet.

She said apps like Snapchat and Discord are just two of the ways perpetrators are using to find potential victims.

“That amenity of not having that person right in front of them, they feel safe so boundaries are diminished at that time, they are sharing lots of information,” Seymore said. “That alleged perpetrator is filling some type of need for that child.”

Seymore said they are constantly adapting to inform parents, schools, and children about dangers and methods to being safe.

She says for parents, it’s important not to take away your child’s devices, but instead try to either set boundaries or work with your children, as they will find a way to get online regardless.

She says that they also host classes and offer advice on how to navigate their children’s devices.

“We will actually walk them through, step by step, on how to get into the app, how to turn off the location and walk them through what they need to be looking for on their child’s phone,” Seymore said.

Seymore said it’s important that parents don’t simply take away any devices, but instead try to set appropriate boundaries and monitor their child’s activity.

Seymore said they will be hosting workshops for parents, both in person and online, across the region in April as April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

But she said anyone, both parents and even schools, are welcome to reach out to them free of charge for more information and tips on their website.

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