There is nothing more important than a child's safety. That's why parents and grandparents alike need to be extra vigilant keeping tabs on their online adventures. To try and help, we recently warned you about secret "sexting" codes that children are using.
Cyberbullying, online predators and even the risk of internet addiction are just a few other things to watch out for. Now, we've learned that some predators are preying on kids through fake social media accounts.
What you need to warn your kids about immediately
With more and more kids being exposed to smartphones and the internet at younger ages these days, the chances of them running into a digital predator is high. What's happening now is, predators are creating fake social media accounts, pretending to be private accounts of celebrities that children idolize.
Police are warning people that several of these types of accounts have been discovered, pretending to be teen idols like Justin Bieber or Harry Styles. The deviants behind the accounts contact young kids who are following them and ask for inappropriate, pornographic type pictures.
This problem is getting so bad that Harry Styles' sister, Gemma, took to social media to warn fans about the @PrvtHarryStyles Twitter account. The fake account had over 10,000 followers and has since been suspended.
For people asking @PrvtHarryStyles is NOT a real account. Do not send pictures or anything else. Stay sharp, stay suspicious, stay safe ❌⚠️
— Gemma Styles (@GemmaAnneStyles) February 16, 2017
Inspector Jon Rouse told the BBC, "The fact that so many children across the world could believe that they were talking to Justin Bieber, and that Justin Bieber would make them do things that they did, is really quite concerning. I think a re-evaluation of the way we educate children about safe online behavior is really needed."
He went on to warn parents about kids using the site, Muscial.ly. The site lets users create 15-second video clips to go along with their favorite music and share them online. Rouse claims sex offenders are using the site to prey on children.
In one incident, a mother said that someone pretending to be Justin Bieber on Musical.ly asked her 8-year-old daughter to send him nude selfies. She said her daughter had only been using Musical.ly for two days before this terrifying incident occurred.
Representatives of Musical.ly told MailOnline that, "We take safety of our users very seriously and we have zero tolerance for inappropriate, illegal, or predatory behavior on our apps. We urge our users to report any inappropriate activity to us."
How to protect children online
With kids getting their own smartphone or tablet at 5 years old or younger, it's important to know how to keep them safe online. Here are some suggestions:
- Have open dialogue - Make sure you talk to your kids about online safety. Let them know the risks that come with being online and that they can speak with you anytime a problem arises.
- Set parental controls - Take advantage of the parental control settings on your child's gadgets. These will help keep them from accessing inappropriate online content.
- Install security software - You can prevent online risks with security software.