By Lauren DiSpirito

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4)– Students as young as fourth and fifth grades are being targeted by predators using social media apps to connect with them.

That’s according to Fort Collins Police Officer Keith Maynard, a school resource officer and former Crimes Against Persons Detective who educates children, teenagers and parents on how to protect themselves from predators who use new technology to find their victims.

Following the arrest of Zachary Myers of Evans, for allegedly sexually assaulting three victims investigators say he contacted through social media, Maynard shared some of his “best practices” for online and app safety with CBS4.

Zachary Myers (credit: Evans Police)

Zachary Myers (credit: Evans Police)

Maynard says “Kik” messenger, the app investigators say Myers, 22, allegedly used to find and start conversations with some of his victims, is particularly dangerous because it allows users to sign up anonymously and without verifying their email addresses.

“That’s what I think is appealing to the dark side,” Maynard said, “You can sign up and be anonymous and then be talking to somebody’s son or daughter.”

CBS4's Lauren DiSpirito interviews Fort Collins Police Officer Keith Maynard (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Lauren DiSpirito interviews Fort Collins Police Officer Keith Maynard (credit: CBS)

To a parent, Maynard says the “Kik” phone icon may resemble a game. He suggests parents open each app on the teen or child’s phone and familiarize themselves with it.

“See what it does, even download it on your phone and see what it does on your phone,” Maynard said.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

He also suggests parents set ground rules for phone use, ask for and keep passwords their son or daughter uses to access apps and read their conversations. While some parents he talks to express a reluctance to interfere with their child’s privacy, Maynard says it is better for parents to know what their child is up to online and on their phone.

“Be a part of their life,” Maynard says. “It’s not that you don’t trust your child, it’s that sometimes, in the cases we’re talking about, we don’t trust everybody around your child.”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Fort Collins Police Services offer monthly classes on internet safety for children, teens and adults. For schedules and more safety tips visit http://www.fcgov.com/police/internet-safety.php

Lauren DiSpirito is CBS4’s Northern Newsroom reporter. Follow her on Twitter @CBS4Lauren. Share your story ideas with her here.

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