Smartphone Apps A Problem In Protecting From Child Predators - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Smartphone Apps A Problem In Protecting From Child Predators

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Efforts to catch child predators are becoming more and more challenging thanks to evolving technology. With smartphones law enforcement are up against a new generation of messaging applications that make it harder to get evidence to charge a potential predator.

Close to 58 percent of teens now have a smartphone according to a recent Nielsen survey. That's up from 36 percent in July 2011. With that comes access to hundreds of thousands of apps and plenty that can connect you with complete strangers. The biggest concern are the ones that have features that seemingly erase the trail of interaction.

"Had a few cases with the online enticement where it seems like adults that might be communicating with minors ask them if they have these types of applications, the Kik messenger," said Clinton County Sheriff's Deputy Jessup Schroeder.

Deputy Schroeder is part of the Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. He says the problem with several new apps is that the user can set the amount of time the person on the receiving end can view the message or picture. For example, ten seconds and, unless there's a screen grab, it's gone. "It's a challenge for law enforcement because we lose that piece of evidence that would be very valuable to us," added Schroeder.

Offenders may try this instead of an online computer chat room as a method to make contact with a child, seeing it as an easier way to hide from the law. That's worrisome for officers and even more so for parents.

"It's too easy and not enough parents care about what their kids are doing," said Jeff Iberg, a Fulton parent.

"As much technology that's come out hopefully they'll come up with something to monitor or at least notify, flag, or something to help protect our kids a little better," said Darla Russell, another Fulton parent.

Just like a computer cell phones have IP addresses. Deputy Schroeder says, while the texts or pictures exchanged might be lost, officers can get records through companies like "Kik" and "Tiger Text" to at least track where a sender or receiver is. Aside from that at this point he says parents have to be vigilant.

"Be mindful of the smartphone. You can do just as much on a smartphone as you can on a desktop or laptop," he added.

Aside from talking to your child about the dangers, officers suggest parents research applications or software available to help monitor activity on your child's phone.

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