Keeping tabs on your kids' online activity

FRESNO, Calif.

Many parents find it impossible to keep up with ever-changing technology but it is essential to protect your kids. Young people often obsess over the latest gadgets. But police warn new technology is often exploited by predators.

Smart phones with GPS capability may seem to be a cool way for parents to track their kids. But Clovis Police Sgt. Matt McFadden says mapping applications can also be used by predators who befriend kids through on-line social networks. McFadden urges parents to talk to their kids about GPS.

"They're gonna say, oh yeah dad let me show you how it works," said McFadden. "And then my weird friend Joe likes to map me. Whoa, that's when the red flags come up."

McFadden investigates internet crime so consumer excitement over the latest gadget is always tempered by security concerns.

McFadden adds, "We have to look for that dark side of what people are going to use this technology for."

Olga Huerta of Sanger knows predators constantly troll chat rooms. "Now with the chat rooms, that's more of concern because you really don't know where that chat is coming from. Who's really on there."

Huerta's 17-year-old daughter Jacklyne isn't allowed on chat rooms. Jacklyne recently received an inappropriate message from an acquaintance. "And then when I got that message it really bugged me because he didn't talk to me like that before."

But many parents don't monitor their kids' on-line activity. It's even more difficult with young people connected to their cell phones. They're not just talking and texting. Many phones allow you to snap pictures or videos and post them on-line.

Tamyra Pierce said, "A lot of these young gals are exposing themselves on the social networking sites."

Fresno State Professor Tamyra Pierce conducted a campus survey on "sexting," sending inappropriate pictures over a phone or the internet. Over 400 students responded.

"Nearly half said at one time or another they had sent inappropriate pictures," said Pierce.

Huerta knows part of the problem is many parents are overwhelmed by technology. "There's so many people I know who don't know how to turn on the computer, let alone what to look for."

And Jacklyne believes many kids are too naive they may be in danger. "I think they need to have a little more supervision, not to the point where your parents are right on top of you."

This story is one of several featured in a new Children First special airing this weekend. "Who's Influencing Your Kid" takes a look at the positive and negative connections children are making.

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