PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Pinellas County Deputies are hosting a second parent meeting Thursday night aimed at keeping kids safe from online predators and bullies.
It's the second session deputies are hosting in a new effort to help parents keep their kids safe.
St. Petersburg mom Laura Hine is waiting as long as possible to introduce her sons to technology.
“We haven’t entered the technology or social media realm yet, but I worry about it,” she said.
Her boys are in preschool and second grade, and Hine knows those discussions are right around the corner.
"I plan to research apps and online recommendations with help from the community when the time comes," Hine explained.
Pinellas County Deputy Chuck Skipper knows the struggle first hand. That’s why he’s hosting parent presentations to help.
“It’s not like riding a bike. The bike keeps changing and they add more wheels so it’s more challenging as a parent,” Deputy Skipper added.
His first tip: Constantly stay on top of your children’s apps. Even Instagram and Snapchat recently added TV or “Discover” functions allowing kids to potentially stumble on X-rated content.
Next, watch out for messaging functions on games like Fortnight, where strangers can connect with your child.
St. Petersburg dad Dru Rabin sets firm rules.
“I tell my 12 and 13-year-old daughters to only connect with people that you know in the real world,” he said.
But the biggest thing Deputy Skipper sees: Secret apps making it easier than ever for kids to share inappropriate photos with their friends.
“One of the biggest problems is kids sending nude photos. It’s at every school in Pinellas County. They may consent to sending it but those photos often end up in the wrong hands,” he explained.
While most parents know to get their children’s passwords, casually talking to your kids about their social media lives is crucial too.
"I ask my kids: 'You know, what’s the craziest thing you saw today online today?',” Rabin said.
Deputy Skipper says parents can also purchase routers that allow them to restrict online hours for kids. He suggests having a family charging station so children and teens can only using their phone apps during approved hours.
Skipper also provided ABC Action News with a list of the most dangerous apps for kids, according to the websites "Teen Safe" and "Educate Empower Kids."
Here are the top 18:
- yubo (formerly yellow)
- After School
- Kik Messenger
- Tik Tok (Formerly Musical.ly)
- Hot or Not
Thursday's parent presentation is in Palm Harbor from 6:30-8 p.m. at the White Chapel and Harbor Hall building. Pinellas County Deputies plan to schedule other sessions across the county soon.