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'It starts with the cellphone': Social media rife with dangers for teens

Posted at 6:37 AM, May 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-02 15:22:59-04

Do you really know what your kids are doing on their cell phones? Local parents want fellow guardians to get educated about social media before it's too late.

"I think the biggest misconception is that good kids are immune," Wendy Smith said.

Carrie Dipaola knows her daughters are good kids, but she checks their phones regularly to make sure.

"I probably know 30% of what they're doing on their cell phones...Not for lack of trying to be involved, but I just know that teenagers can be sneaky," Dipaola said.

Dipaola and her teens have an understanding.

"We have a rule that we can pick up their phone at any time," Dipaola said.

Her daughters don't consider this an invasion of privacy.

"No, I don't think so," Corrie Dipaola said.

"Not really," Casie Dipaola said.

  • Wendy Smith wishes she would have kept a closer eye on her daughter's phone.

"We got laxed with checking because she didn't give us any reason to doubt her," Smith said.

When she did take a look, Smith found a predator likely in the process of grooming her teen for sex trafficking. She found inappropriate messages on her phone.

"If your kids are on social media, you got to know about social media," Smith said.

Smith created Washington County Anti-Trafficking Advocates to educate parents.

"They think that because they follow their kids on their social media accounts that's all that they're posting," Smith said.

She partners with Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt.

"It starts with the cellphone and if children are monitored by their parents with the cellphone usage it really can go a long ways saving them from being trafficked," Sheriff Schmidt said.

Sheriff Schmidt encourages parents to open every app and learn what they do.

Be aware of apps like Calculator and Vault that cover up other functions and look out for second accounts. Many kids create fake accounts, on Instagram this is known as Finstagram.

"Pull it out, take a look, scroll through, see what you can find, read through those accounts to make sure that what's on there is appropriate," Schmidt said. "Just keeping yourself up to date is key."

Parents should talk with kids about what they're doing on their phones. Talk to them about the grooming process so even your kids know what to look for.

To read Sheriff Schmidt's full blog post regarding children's cellphone use, click here.

To learn more about Washington County Anti-Trafficking Advocates, click here.