Common smartphone apps could lead to nightmares for parents - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Common smartphone apps could lead to nightmares for parents

Chances are, some of the apps on your child's phone are the exact same apps that have lead to East Texas children being sexually assaulted. Chances are, some of the apps on your child's phone are the exact same apps that have lead to East Texas children being sexually assaulted.
TYLER, TX (KLTV) -
Chances are, some of the apps on your child's phone are the exact same apps that have lead to East Texas children being sexually assaulted.

"With social media making everything so accessible, it can just turn into a nightmare really quickly," says Molly Sash, a mother of two.

Just last week a 26-year-old Kansas man was sentenced to 8 years in prison after he traveled to Tyler to have sex with a teenage girl. Prosecutors say Matthew Howell met a 13-year-old girl through an online game. That connection lead to video chatting and eventually his trip to East Texas where he had sex with the teen.

Specifically, eight smartphone apps created nightmares for East Texas parents. The  following apps aided local teenagers in meeting strangers who then went on to sexually assault them:
  • Meet Me
  • Hot or Not
  • Kik
  • Tumblr
  • Vine
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
"The riskiness to it is that it's so instant," says Brenda Sanchez, community educator at the Children's Advocacy Center of Smith County.

It's a problem that Sanchez and her co-workers are seeing more frequently.

"We've had several teens, pre-teens --even younger than that-- coming in saying that they met somebody online... someone that they thought they could trust," explains Sanchez.

However, keeping an eye on what kids are up to is a challenge.

"They have so much more knowledge about that social media stuff than we do," says Don Lusk, a Tyler father of five.

"We've heard of instances in middle schools or high schools where children are gathering to watch pornography during free time during school. Look at your child's phone bill. If every other day at 11 o'clock there's this tremendous surge of internet during second or third period... guess what? Something is going on in that classroom. Find out what it is they're doing," urges Sanchez.

After speaking with the parents of many child victims, experts say having a conversation with your kids is the way to go. Sanchez says the apps aren't always dangerous. Sometimes kids are "just being silly," so Sanchez urges parents to stay involved.

"Pick your battles. If you pounce on everything you see, then when the really big stuff comes up they might not feel comfortable talking to you," Sanchez adds.

Copyright 2014 KLTV. All rights reserved.
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