FBI warns online predators take advantage of school closures

Parents urged to monitor online activity, set parental controls to protect children

FBI warns online predators take advantage of school closures
FBI warns online predators take advantage of school closures

SAN ANTONIO – With schools closed due to the coronavirus and children spending more time online, the FBI is warning parents about online predators.

Officials said this is prime time for cyber criminals to work on grooming kids to sextort or traffic them.

“We need to keep an eye on our kids,” said Special Agent, Michelle Lee. “We find that kids are on their devices more so they have greater exposure to child predators.”

Lee said its important to monitor children’s online activity.

"We need to be aware of who they’re talking to and and what social media platforms they’re using,” Lee said.

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Lawrence Hayes, a father of 4 boys, agrees with Lee.

“Anybody could be anybody who they want to be, basically,” Hayes said.

Hayes’ sons are in Pre-K, second, fourth, and sixth grades. He set up a virtual classroom in his living room with laptops and computers so that his sons can all learn side by side.

“I can sit next to my son and see what he’s doing. I can, you know, videoconference his teacher. You know, we can we can vouch who is legit, who is not,” Hayes said. “I can check on everybody at once.”

The FBI suggests parents adjust online settings if they can’t physically watch their children’s online activity. Lee said the best line of defense against online predators, is good old-fashioned advice.

“Talk to them, to warn them about those predators that are out there,” Lee said.

Some signs that your child may be in contact with an online predator include increased nightmares, withdrawn behaviors, angry outbursts, anxiety and depression.

To find out how to report suspected online predators visit FBI.gov.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.