Tuscaloosa authorities are warning all social media users to be safe online after two men were arrested for raping a 14-year-old girl they met online.
Mike Chaisson with the Tuscaloosa Police Department says that the young victim met her alleged abusers on a social networking site through her smart phone. It's only when her mother followed a recommended social media safety tip – checking her child's phone – did she realize what had happened.
"Basically she decided to check her child's phone and that's something I recommend. I have a child myself and I check their media devices regularly," Chaisson said.
Chaisson says police can't solicit or entrap suspects who may be trolling the internet for young victims.
That puts more responsibility on parents to monitor their kids online activity.
"It's important that parents have the passwords and are aware of the emails and everything and check everything as much as they can," Chaisson said.
Meredith Cummings, a social media expert at the University of Alabama, believes some parents are at a disadvantage to their kids in the age of social media.
"It's a fine line when it comes to social media and parenting. Between paranoia and letting them have a life, letting them be online with their true friends," Cummings said.
Cummings suggests if you have younger children, most of their online activities should be monitored and advises using safety filters.
For teenagers, Cummings advises educating them on behaving responsibly online and not to give much information about them to strangers.
"Let them know privacy is an issue.. Let them know bullying can be an issue. Let them know you have no way of knowing who you are talking to online."
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