Omegle? A new internet worry for parents
SPOKANE COUNTY, WA (KHQ) - All it takes is a few seconds: going online, downloading an app, or sharing pictures to find a potential predator.
It's all in a days work for Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy Damon Simmons. He works in the Sex Crimes Unit, which is part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
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But online? He's Jessica, a 13-year-old girl.
"This is the same thing the bad guys do, it's not hard to pretend that you're someone else on the Internet," Simmons told KHQ.
But Simmons does it to catch the bad guys, and has helped put away a couple dozen in the last few years.
"The problem in the Spokane area is the same problem that everyone is experiencing across the country, and across the world," he added.
One of the sites he showed us is www.omegle.com, designed solely for strangers to talk to strangers about topics that interest them, without registering or even creating a username.
One message read: "Don't care about age if you have a nice ***." Other, more sexually explicit posts we won't share.
Deputy Simmons said one of the first things predators will ask is for your age, sex and location. But then, they'll ask you to Skype or Kik – online video chatting websites – to ensure they're really talking with teens, not detectives.
"I thought I knew the Internet, I thought I knew computers, and I was totally blown away by what happens and how many predators there are out there," Deputy Simmons added.
He says the best thing parents can do is talk with their kids about the dangers of the Internet and set clear expectations. He recommends parents set up their kids' online accounts, have their passwords, and regularly monitor their usage.
Read more at KHQ's website.