A new realm of apps are making it easier for sexual predators to contact kids. Texting apps, such as Pinger, Text Plus or Text Now, are all free apps that enable users to send text messages on non-mobile devices, such as a computer or I-pod.
"It's almost like a chat community if you think about it," said Mesa County Sheriff's Office Community Outreach Deputy Chad Williams. "The applications in them of themselves are benign, it's what people are doing with them."
Anyone can join the "texting communities" by downloading the application. Once that occurs, anyone who's downloaded the app can message other users of it, meaning strangers-- or predators-- could be texting your kids.
"People aren't truthful with who they are and what their intentions are on these sites," said Williams. "You don't know who's on the other end, whether it's another teen, or if it's going to be a 40 year old man or woman, you just don't know."
It's a situation that's happened to 12-year-old Kiyah Woodward, who uses the app Pinger to text on her I-pod.
"It's creepy when you get text messages from people you don't know," Woodward said. "It happens to a lot of my friends actually."
Woodward said she's received text from strangers asking her who she is.
Williams said it's important for parents to recognize the applications and realize when they monitor their kids' phones, they must look beyond the standard text message inbox. He recommends parents be in charge of the passwords kids have to enter before downloading an app.
"A teen is going to have hundreds of apps on their phone sometimes and you'll miss it if you don't know what you're looking for," Williams said.
Williams will be holding an internet safety class for parents on November 27 at 7 p.m. about how to protect kids against predators, and details on new ways predators are targeting kids. To sign up for that class, visit: www.mesacountysafekids.com.
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