Breaking News
More () »

'Once it's out there, it's out there' | Keeping your children safe from online predators

As police investigate a California man accused of coercing 80 children into making child porn, police have tips that parents can use to keep their kids safe online.

INDIANAPOLIS — Central Indiana police departments are urging parents to monitor their child’s devices and that starts with monitoring what they do and who they talk to online. 

The latest reminder comes after 24-year-old Demetrius Carl Davis was arrested in California for allegedly posing as an 11-year-old girl online to communicate with children and coerce them into making child pornography. Among the 80 victims identified nationwide, police say 11 were children from Indiana.

Meanwhile, Indiana State Police continue to investigate activity around various social media profiles using a profile named "anthony_shots." The profile was revealed by ISP in December 2021 as a possible connection to the investigation of Libby German and Abby Williams, who were murdered in Delphi, Indiana in February 2017. Police said the person behind the account used photos of a male model to solicit nude photos from young girls, get their addresses and try to meet them.

Kegan Kline, who is facing charges in a child exploitation case, admitted to creating the fake profile. Kline has not been charged in the murders of Delphi girls.

Police have since expanded their search to find anyone who communicated with "anthony_shots" on other social media platforms, including "Yellow," which is now known as "Yubo."

RELATED: Libby German's grandfather reacts to police interview transcript and investigators' call for more information

Police say being aware of - and vigilant about - your child's online activity is of utmost importance for parents.

“Even when you are not around, if there are certain devices where you can remote in and see what your children are doing, you should utilize those apps,” said IMPD Ofc. William Young. “Anything you can do to monitor what your kid is doing because when it boils down to it, it’s for their safety.”  

Young said parents should also remind their children not to give out addresses or personal information online.  It’s important to also know their passwords and limit certain apps that aren’t appropriate.    

“Once it’s out there, it’s out there,” Young said.  

Safety starts with parents

"Technology is not going to go away. We have to teach our kids how to use it," said Cathie Bledsoe. 

Bledsoe has been talking to kids about cybersafety for more than a decade, first as a computer teacher, now as a youth educator with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for Indiana State Police. She said kids are getting devices sooner, giving them access to more sites, apps and contact with total strangers. 

Learning how to stay safe online, she said, starts with parents.

"I'll talk to a group of kids about some of the dangers of some of the apps and parents don't even realize some of the challenges that the kids are facing online. Codes like 'OD' in some of the game sites doesn't mean overdose, it means online date. Predators are trying to date our children virtually and through online games, so there's a lot people don't know," Bledsoe said. 

For parents, she said, keep up on slang terms and emojis so you know what your kids are messaging others, learn to use the apps and sites your kids do, and don't forget to use tracking settings to see what they're doing online. Bledsoe said it's important to help your kids by setting strict privacy settings on accounts and limiting their location and data collection from apps and sites. 

Be ready to help or shut down a situation if something online goes sour. 

"OK, so you're putting yourself out there, someone says something to you. What do you do next? My suggestion is always block and report. But a lot of kids think, 'Well, it's no big deal, it's a joke.' It's not a joke because, eventually, it becomes a problem," Bledsoe said. 

Don't focus on the apps or sites kids use specifically, Bledsoe said, because risks can be almost anywhere online. Instead, focus on smart behaviors early on, like no oversharing, posting inappropriate pictures or interacting with strangers, so they can build smart safety habits early.

"If you teach children how to behave online, how to present themselves online, how to use the few securities that are there for them then we have a better chance at keeping them safe," Bledsoe said. 

Tips to keep kids safe online

The FBI provides the following tips to protect you and your children online: 

1. Be selective about what you share online, especially your personal information and passwords. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able to figure out a lot of information about you or your children. 

2. Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers. 

3. Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be. 

4. Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform. 

5. Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult. 

RELATED: The great cell phone debate: When should your kids get a cell phone and how do you watch what they’re doing?

If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of sextortion: 

1. Contact your local FBI field office, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-THE-LOST or Cybertipline.org). 

2. Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it. 

3. Tell law enforcement everything about the encounters you had online; it may be embarrassing, but it is necessary to find the offender. 

More resources

Here are three places parents can turn for preventing and reporting child sexual exploitation: 

Before You Leave, Check This Out