Now that summer is here, kids tend to have a lot more free time that is often spent on the internet. Several cases of sexual predators online involving children have surfaced since the beginning of the new year right here in North Central Wisconsin, making online safety that much more of a priority.
Bailey Helms, 13, is going into 8th grade in September. Like many other kids today, she was often on the latest social media sites with friends, "but then some stuff happened, so my parents took it away," she said.
Although she didn't want to talk about it, she did tell NewsChannel 7 that she has experienced some cyber bullying. It's just one of the many things that can happen when too much information is shared on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Wikitude, or Ask.FM. Another online danger lurking on these sites are predators. That's why her and her family decided to come to a social media awareness presentation at Antigo High School on Wednesday.
"Predators that are out there know about these sites and know that kids are on them. So they intentionally go to those sites and try and make contact with the kids," said Detective Sargeant Dan Duley with the Antigo Police Department. "They really just start out being friendly and just kind of chatting and maybe throw some questions out to the kids and see how open or how much they'll answer them."
He said if predators do find someone who will communicate with them, the conversation often escalates and they'll ask more personal questions to get their location and their weaknesses.
"They have a whole process, a grooming process that they go through to lure these kids in and before the kids even realize what's going on, they've already been pulled into that situation," he said.
"We as parents and adults need to be a little more vigilent in what our children are seeing online out there and help protect them. Part of it is it's our duty to be the first line of defense," said President of the Board of Education for the Unified School District of Antigo Mike Boldig.
That's exactly what Helms parents are teaching her.
"If there's like people I don't know asking me some personal things, then I go and tell my parents or I just block them," she said.
If you would like to learn more about online dangers and how to protect yourself and your children, here are a few links to get you started:
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