NEW ORLEANS – Authorities in New Jersey are warning parents to watch their child’s online activity after 24 men were accused of luring children on popular online apps.
According to a report by NJ.com, 24 men were arrested after allegedly chatting and trying to lure minors for sex. The report says the men started conversations through popular apps like Kik, Wishbone, Discord, Tumblr and even video games like Fortnite and Minecraft. Investigators say all of the apps had some sort of chat room feature that allowed the men to talk with their targets.
While some apps had 18+ age requirements, the apps the men allegedly used were not always adult-only.
“These arrests serve as a sobering reminder that parents should closely monitor their child’s online activity,” New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan told members of the media.
Robert Allen, an adjunct professor of homeland security studies at Tulane University, said online games and social media makes it easier than ever for predators to interact with children. Allen said games like Fortnite and Minecraft allows predators to establish a rapport with their target.
"Now we have established a bond. Now we are gaining a bit of trust, and a bit of commonality," Allen said. "Parents need to be very, very vigilant when they talk to their kids about this."
Allen said parents should also be aware of popular messaging apps like Kik and Snapchat. These apps are "disposable text messaging" where messages disappear after a certain period of time.
WWL-TV Eyewitness News spoke with parents about how they monitor their child’s online activity. Many parents we spoke with had a wide range of opinions and tactics. Some parents say they closely monitor online activity while others say they trust their children to make the right decisions.
“Put your computer in the middle of a room like a living room, and when it is time to use it, they can use it,” one father said. “You put them behind a room and you don’t know what they can get into.”
“She knows not to use her real name. She knows not to put her picture online,” a mother said. “I know what she is doing because I pick it up and look.”
"You want to trust your kids, but you want to verify," Allen recommends. "When you get these apps, make sure you are aware of what your kids are doing."
NJ.com reports that the men were booked on luring charges and many other face additional charges like attempted sexual assault of a minor and attempted debauching the morals of a child.
Duke Carter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org