Crime Online: Social media attracts child predators
While popular social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter have exploded in popularity for teens and adults as a way to stay in touch, it has also attracted a more dangerous audience.
Police say potential sexual predators lurk online nationwide, targeting young people on social media sites.
In his five years working on child abuse cases for the Sheriff’s Office, Marsh has seen a distinct correlation between the popularity of social media and child sex cases.
Facebook and text messaging is a factor in almost every child sex abuse case at the Sheriff’s Office, he said, and some of them involved children as young as 8 years old being solicited by adults.
“If you let your kid have unsupervised access to Facebook, you are doing nothing different than if you took them and set the out in downtown Asheville at 11 p.m. with your credit card and said ‘I’ll be back in the morning to pick you up.’ They are in every bit as much danger,” Marsh said.
Many times, online predators will start communication through private messaging by building trust, something Marsh refers to as “grooming.” Then, they will schedule a time to meet in person.
“It’s a crime just for an adult to ask a kid to meet them for sex, and if they show up it’s a higher level felony,” he said. “Of course we don’t know about all of it, but it happens every single day and it happens right here.”
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