VIRGINIA BEACH — The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office here is helping parents stay “in the know” when it comes to internet safety and mobile apps at a time when smartphones, tablets, and computers are continuously evolving and kids are just as likely to use the technology as adults.
In 2013 the office launched their internet safety initiative with ComputerCop, a software used on desktop and laptop computers helping parents monitor their child’s online activity.
The focus shifted to more of a social media safety campaign in 2016.
Now, with mobile apps like the Calculator Vaul — which looks like a normal calculator app but is really a passcode-protected place teenagers are storing photos — parents staying aware of popular apps and their children’s mobile device activity, find monitoring is essential.
“Parents should remember their children have no right to privacy from their parents,” said Macie Allen, a spokeswoman for the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office. “Parents should be searching phones to see who their child is communicating with, what apps they’re using, and just really going through to see what’s on there.”
Allen said the office has identified SnapChat, Twitter, Facebook, and Facebook Messanger as the primary mobile apps predators like Matthew Robert McMeans, 27, used to contact their underage victims.
In February 2018 McMeans was sentenced to 32 years for multiple sex acts with a minor under 13 years old who he’d been talking to and soliciting pictures from through SnapChat and Facebook Messanger.
Other apps parents should monitor include Kiwi, Wickr, Tumblr, and the newer app Musical.ly where users make a video of themselves lip singing to songs and post them publicly, according to the “Internet Safety” page on the city’s website.
“When a video is posted [on Musical.ly], anyone can like, comment, or message in response to your child’s post if their privacy settings are set to public,” the site reads.
The office’s 2016 social media brochure has more information and names other apps like Kik, Whisper, Ask.fm, Yik Yak, Tinder, Omegle, Burn Note, and Line.
And, they may not realize it but Allen said children can also be charged for distributing or possessing child pornography when they save or share naked photos of other minors.
“It can land them in prison and carry significant consequences affecting college admission, finding a job, joining the military,” she said.
Allen’s advice for children who are active on social media apps is to know “anything posted online doesn’t go away and can follow them for the rest of their lives.”
For more information about the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Internet Safety initiative, click here.