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OSBI warns parents about online sexual exploitation

OSBI (Source KSWO) OSBI (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -Summer is here and children are out of school, so that means many of them will be spending a lot more time at home surfing the internet and on social media.

The OSBI says nearly 1,000 cases of child sexual exploitation were reported in the state in 2015 alone. Due to easy access to the internet on computers, cell phone and tablets, child sex crimes are on the rise.

OSBI agent Adam Whitney says children are being exposed to the internet and social media at a very young age now, so he wants parents to change the privacy settings on the devices and to talk to their children about dangerous situations on the web.

"You might be in a small town, but the internet is borderless," Agent Whitney said.

Whitney is part of the OSBI's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and he says while children use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep in contact with their friends, social media also attracts a dangerous crowd.

"Children gather more on the internet than anywhere else, so child predators use that," he explained.

Whitney says parents should utilize parental controls on all devices and have conversations about what they do online.

"Talk to them about where they're going and what they're doing and make sure that it's age appropriate. If you're a parent, spend time with your child on the site that your child goes to so you can see what experience they are having," Whitney suggested.

OSBI says although strangers are a threat, sometimes children are exploited by people they know. Surprisingly enough, a large number of child pornography images are actually taken and sent by the children themselves, often persuaded to do so by others they know, or think they know.

"Not everybody you meet online has your best intentions and that people can very easily report themselves to be something they're not," Whitney said.

Whitney encourages parents to be open with their children because you don't want them to feel as if they would get in trouble by telling you what happened.

"Tell the child ‘these things happen online, if it ever happens to you, come to me, you won't be in any trouble, we will work through it,’" Whitney said.

If your child is the victim of internet sexual misconduct or you observe this type of behavior, report the incident to cybertipline.com, the OSBI or local law enforcement.

OSBI reports a study found that 88% of American teens between the ages of 13 and 17 have or have access to the internet and/or a mobile phone of some kind.

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