Police face trouble keeping up with dangerous apps, ask parents to stay vigilant
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) -- Every day the Tulsa Police Department's Cyber Crimes Unit faces a challenge keeping up with predators targeting kids through online apps.
In the last year they've arrested dozens of people, but detectives said it’s getting harder and harder.
Sixteen-year-old Marlowe Morrison is no stranger to the digital age.
“I use Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter,” she said.
Her mom, Cindy, strives to protect her children from the dangers of social media.
“I’m here to keep you safe,” said Cindy. “That’s my number one job.”
As a social media strategist, she said she is always learning about the latest apps.
“When my son was in junior high there was ASK.fm and I was not aware of the app at the time,” she said. “Then I saw what he and his friends were posting. Very personal stuff, when the bus stop gets there. Anybody can ask you anything they want to and the kids were answering it thinking just my friends are going to see that. If I was able to see it anybody could see it.”
Snapchat is also an app she keeps an eye on, especially with the continuous updates.
“Anything that allegedly disappears gives them that false sense of security,” said Cindy. “The fact that they think it’s only going to be around for 24 hours seems to be their safety net well as we know when they broke into Snapchat none of those pictures went away.”
Detective Joshua Showman dedicates his life to tracking fake accounts online.
“There’s no end in sight to this,” he said. “We will always have people who will want to prey on children, and as long as children have access to these devices and applications there’s a potential for victim-hood.”
He said there are several signs of potentially dangerous apps. The ones that seem to get the attention of predators are ones that have a big user base, ones where they can directly message kids and remain anonymous or use a filter.
Showman said keeping up is the hardest part.
“We don’t have the manpower to deal with this,” he said. “By the time we get involved it’s usually too late. There’s a victim.”
The Morrisons said they don’t allow themselves to fall prey.
“I would definitely ask my mom if she was OK with it, but if it’s something sketchy I usually don’t download it in the first place,” said Marlowe.
They said they stay on high alert at all times.
“Anytime you give people a window in to your private life there’s a risk that comes with that,” said Cindy.
Police said the most important thing to do is preserve the evidence by taking screen shots or photographing conversations. Most importantly, do not confront the attacker but contact police so they can handle it.