INDEPENDENCE, OH (WOIO) - Children and teenagers can be on their computers or their cell phones sometimes for hours. Do you know what your child's doing online?
Independence Police and several agencies came together Tuesday night to warn parents of the dangers of social media.They said recent child abductions in the Cleveland area prompted them to shine a light on the issue.
Dozens of parents attended the meeting at Independence High School. If you're a mom like Kim Post, it's tough to keep up with the technology.
"It's hard to stay ahead of it. She knows more than I do, so I'm trying to get more information," she said.
That's why she's turning to law enforcement for tips.
"I know she wants to make friends and they want to be social and be on it, but I want her to be safe," Post said.
Experts say child predators groom children they talk to online.
"They slowly, sometimes over months gain the trust of these children to the point where kids think they're in a relationship and it's okay to trust this person even when they tell them to do things," said Chief Michael Kilbane.
Police recommend setting two ground rules with your kids: first-- don't talk to strangers. Next-- tell them everything they send online they should feel comfortable with if their grandma saw it.
Experts say you should have the passwords for each of your kid's social media accounts, and you can get notifications every time they pay to download an app. But it's the free apps like Instagram and Facebook you need to watch out for.
You should also look for signs your child's social life online could be getting dangerous.
Police say if your teen shuts of his computer when you walk into the room or won't let you look at his phone, something could be up. You should also watch for changes in behavior and falling grades at school.
"At the end of the day, no one knows the children like their parents, and they can see the subtle changes in behavior and the little cues away from the computer that may show something's going on," Chief Kilbane said.
But most of all, you need to learn how to use these phone apps yourself so you can check them.
"I'm always paying attention and checking through her phones, her computer. Family and friends, working with everyone to make sure our kids are safe," said Eileen Pace, a parent.
You can take another simple step to keep your kids safe, by registering them with a local Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
They have a program called ID R KIDS.
If they ever go missing, they're in a state database with an updated photo and emergency contacts. This can also help your child in case their identity is ever stolen. You can sign them up at any age for $8.50.
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