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New Texting Apps Offer Predators Discomforting Access To Children

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

GOLDEN, Colo (CBS4) Kids and texting go hand-in-hand. New applications for the iPod are allowing kids to without owning a phone. That presents a challenge for parents who may not know that their kids are texting. Now authorities are concerned that these texting apps are a new portal for sexual predators.

“It’s more prevalent than anyone wants to think. A lot of people think this isn’t going to happen to my child, and unfortunately it happens to a lot of good kids,” said Det. Mike Harris with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.

Harris is an investigator with the Internet Crimes unit at the D.A’s Office. He’s arrested and convicted hundreds of people for soliciting children on the internet. He says that sexual predators are always looking for ways to connect with kids, and he thinks texting apps are their new hook.

“If parents don’t realize this is going on or know about these applications, then they don’t even really know how to parent that type of technology,” Harris told CBS4.

Kids who don’t have cell phones are using their iPod. They download free apps like, “Text Free”, “Text Plus”, or “Text Now”. The app turns the iPod into a text instrument.

“I see good kids making mistakes…giving out too much information thinking they’re talking to a friend, and it turns out to be a predator,” Harris explained.

Harris says education is key to keeping up with changing technology. He takes his message to students. He uses a mascot called Cheezo to help get their attention. Internet safety has been a top priority for Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey.

“We are very aggressive in prosecuting these cases,” Storey told CBS4.

He started the program in 2005, there have been 522 arrests so far, with a near 100-percent conviction rate. The message to parents is that keeping a cell phone out of your child’s hands is no guarantee that they are not texting. And the message to kids that you have to be careful with every text you send.

“If you don’t know someone face-to-face, you shouldn’t be sharing personal information with them, whether it’s online or via your cellphone,” Harris said.

Harris and Cheezo will be at the Community Safety Awareness Fair hosted by the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office. The Fair is Saturday, August 25th from 9am to 1pm at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.
RELATED: More Reports By 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks

- Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith

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