Protecting your kids from risky apps and online activity

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Texoma kids are settling into their summer vacations, which means they are trading in their textbooks for cellphones and tablets. However, police say apps on those devices could be putting your kids in danger.

"You would never allow anyone into your home that you are not comfortable with, it is the exact same thing with social media," said Sergeant Harold McClure, with the Wichita Falls Police Department.

This concern is relatively new. In the past parents did not have to worry about who their child was letting into their lives online, and many kids are like 9-year-old Gigi Harvey. They have their devices with them for most of the day.

"I love my iPad," said Gigi Harvey. "I spend half the day on it."

Gigi's dad says he is aware of her online usage and believes it is up to the parents to know what their child is doing on social media accounts.

"I think there is a responsibility to be aware of who is communicating with whom," said Ralph Harvey.

He said he does not heavily monitor his children's online activity, but instead finds it better to educate them.

"We like to trust them and allow them to demonstrate good judgment," said Harvey. "I think that's more important than just monitoring, showing them how to self-regulate it and be aware."

His daughter Gigi said she is aware and does not go on a lot of websites, just the ones she can trust.

However, police say sometimes that may not be enough. With online child predators, stalkers and scammers, giving out locations, posting images and friending strangers is always risky.

This is something Ralph Harvey says he worries about.

"I think our biggest fear is predators coming in under the guise of being somebody that they know," said Harvey.

Sergeant McClure said to think of your child's phones and tablets as you would their rooms.

"You wouldn't allow your child to lock off their bedroom door and no mom, dad no you can't come in here and see what I am doing," said Sergeant McClure.

He said the same thing goes for a child's social media account. He advises parents to follow their accounts and monitor what they are posting and who they are friending.

Another tip, stay up to date on the latest apps. Sergeant McClure is a father himself and says as a parent you need to be mindful of what is on your child's devices.

Terry McAdams, owner of MacTech Solutions in Wichita Falls, said Apple, Windows and Android devices all have parental features allowing parents to limit what their children can do and who they can talk to.

"You can restrict the time frame that they're online on the computer," said McAdams. "You can require children to actually get approval on any app or you can restrict that to age appropriate games in addition to that."

McAdams wants to remind parents it is not just apps like Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter that allows strangers to communicate with children. Some games also allow interaction so he recommends that parents do some research before giving their child the green light to download.

MacTech Solutions also offers classes that go over training on a number of topics.

The experts say these tips are good for all ages because internet safety is important for adults just as much as it is for kids.

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