CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) — As the new school year begins, you might want to think twice about posting photos and videos of your kids on social media.
What if these images fell into the hands of a predator?
19 Investigates spoke to local leaders of a statewide task force who are warning them that they are seeing a spike in cyber advice for online sexual predators this time of year.
We also found that a social media movement is encouraging parents to take a second look at what they have already posted online.
Many parents are now deleting photos and videos of their own children online after the ‘Wren Eleanor movement’ started on TikTok.
Three-year-old Wren has more than 17 million followers on the video app.
His mother Jacquelyn manages his account and posts innocent photos and videos on it.
Many of his TikTok followers grew concerned after noticing thousands of followers were recording some of these videos, especially those of Wren wearing a crop top and eating certain foods, according to multiple reports.
They feared that the people saving these images were child predators.
in this videoWren’s mother says she checked with the FBI and nothing she posted was found on inappropriate websites.
“If these false rumors have made parents rethink what they post about their kids on social media, that’s a good thing,” she said in the video.
But it can be a good reminder, experts say, that what seems like an innocent message from you or your child can reveal a lot.
“If there are predators out there and your account is public, they can see what you’re up to, from the first post, the second post, to where you are at night and I don’t think don’t let the kids realize you’re posting every moment of your day and you’re telling people where you are every moment of the day,” said
Fallon Radigan, ICAC task force supervisor in Ohio and assistant district attorney in the Cuyahoga County District Attorney’s Office.
The task force has seen a dramatic increase in cyber advice from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
19 Investigates also spoke with Dave Frattare, the statewide commander of ICAC Ohio, which stands for Internet Crimes against Children.
“As we see more children, you know, embracing the virtual world, as we see more adults leaving, you know, working from home, then we see more offenders who are also starting to use technology and that’s a perfect storm,” Frattare said.
We found that before the pandemic, ICAC Ohio received 700-800 cyber tips per month.
But as of 2020, that number has increased to around 1,000 per month or more.
And it’s stayed that high ever since.
We analyzed the numbers and found that cyber advice entering the Ohio ICAC was up this year compared to last year.
In 2021, the working group reported that 12,481 cyber tips reached the ICAC.
This represents on average a little more than a thousand tips per month.
So far, from 2022 to July, they have received 9,848 cyber tips, an average of about 1,400 tips per month.
“We’ve been saying for years that you really have to think before you publish. I mean in everything you do, whether it’s a picture or a comment, think about how this message is going to affect you not only you, but also your children, your family, your friends relatives. What’s in that image or video that identifies your home, your business, something to do with your family and how it’s going to put your children at risk,” Frattare said.
They said prevention comes down to educating themselves, becoming familiar with the apps they use, and being careful.
“If your kids are on these websites, I think you need to know what that entails and who they’re talking to and if they’re taking pictures and videos, what are they taking videos of?” Radigan said.
Ohio’s ICAC has made 189 arrests statewide so far in 2022.
This represents an average of 27 arrests per month, about the same as last year.
The task force has identified 177 child victims in 2021 and has identified 40 so far in 2022.
Frattare said that number can fluctuate for several different reasons and could increase by the end of the year.
And the amount of evidence they sifted through is staggering.
In 2021, Ohio’s ICAC reviewed 448,303 gigabytes of forensic evidence data.
From January to July 2022, the working group reviewed 239,327 gigabytes.
You can report suspected online child predators and learn more about the ICAC here.
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