Posted by the Howard County Police Department today:

PARENTS: With the increased amount of time most children are spending online, Howard County police are reminding parents to monitor their children’s activity. In the past several months, police have received several of reports of “sextortion” involving minors—when a “new friend” convinces the child to provide explicit photos and then threatens to release them if the child doesn’t pay a large sum of money through an online payment app. In one Howard County case, the child was only nine years old.

Police are urging parents to talk to their kids. Warning signs include anyone who invites them into a private chat, or asks for photos or videos. Often, the offender is posing as another child or teen, which increases the victim’s comfort level. Remind your child never to share pictures or videos, which will remain online forever if they are posted by another user.

Parents should try to closely monitor the computer and cell phone apps their children are using. Some apps store photos and videos in a way that makes them difficult for parents to find. Child predators use the internet as a convenient and anonymous way gain access to children when they think parents aren’t looking, so it’s important to be active in monitoring your child’s use of the Internet and talk to them about how to stay safe.

If you suspect your child has been the victim of sextortion or child pornography, or uncover anything suggesting they may have been targeted for something similar, contact the Howard County Police Department at 410-313-2200. For more information and resources, contact The Listening Place: Howard County Child Advocacy Center at 410-313-2630.

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Scott E