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Predators may target your children through their smartphones

Ever hear of Skout?  How about Roulette Chat?
Strangers who want to get to your kids could be as close as the apps on their smartphones.
Sheila Gray tells us what parents can do..

We've all heard the warnings about watching our kids on the computer, but now those computers are in their pockets.

Dr. Art Jipson/Associate Professor, Sociology & Criminology
"They can change the operational software. They can change or hide what they're doing."

Candace Vandawiele/Mother of teen smartphone user
Sheila: "How much do you monitor how much she uses it?"
Candace: "Not very much."
Sheila:  "Do you know how many apps she has on it?"
Candace: "No."

Candace's 13-year old daughter, Anna, uses her smartphone to connect with friends.

"She texts, and a little bit of Instagram."

Lots of kids connect on app's like Instagram, along with Facebook, Snap Chat, and the lesser known Skout and countless other chat apps.

There's a lot of information being shared when people think they have privacy.

Criminal experts say young people, and even parents, don't always fully understand how easily they can reveal their identity and location.    

Sheila: "Did you know that her phone is actually communicating with the apps on it, even when she's not using it?"
Candace: "No."

But predators DO, and criminals HAVE used random chat apps to geolocate their targets.  

"It never asked me my age or if I had my parents permission."

Internet security firm, McAfee, did a recent survey of kids, and more than half said their parents know only SOME of what they do online.  About a quarter said their parents don't have time to check.

Dr. Jipson says parents need to get up to speed..

"Know the latest software, know the latest app's."

You can turn off location services on the phone or the apps in its Privacy settings.
Click on each app to see if its accessing the phone, info or pictures.
The free app, Lookout, will warn you about security risks, tell you how to improve security settings, and even tell you which apps are tracking and revealing your location.
And don't forget to talk to your kids.

Sheila: "How much do you talk to her about it?"
Candace: "All the time."

And experts say communication is better than any software.