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Thumbs down: Case offers lesson, warning to parents about social media

Mar. 19, 2013 @ 10:15 PM

A West Virginia State Police trooper stated it well last week: "It's easy for sex offenders ... to get on there."

In Trooper W.G. Hash's comment, the "there" he referred to was social media sites on the Internet. The reason for his observation was that police had just arrested a Huntington man on charges that he sent explicit material and images to four teenage girls whom the man had located through social media. Criminal complaints state the suspect was aware of the girls' ages -- three were 13 and the other 14 -- and that he sent them explicit photographs and tried to entice them to have sexual intercourse.

In other words, every parent's nightmare -- a scenario that could have ended up a nightmare for the teenage girls had the alleged offender been successful in his quest.

Fortunately, one girl's parent did what Hash recommended all parents do -- pay close attention to what their children are doing with their computers, tablets and smartphones. The father of the 14-year-old became concerned about his daughter getting punished at school for sleeping in class. He took away her cellphone, reviewed the device and found explicit material. He alerted police, who launched an investigation that led to the suspect.

A snooping parent? Indeed. A responsible parent? Yes, particularly since his child's troubles at school gave him cause to wonder what was happening. And that's what it takes to protect children nowadays from online predators. "It's all about parental guidance," Hash told The Herald-Dispatch. "They need to monitor what their children are doing ... They need to be aware of who (their children's) friends are on Facebook."

His message is one that all parents should take to heart so that they can better protect their children.

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