Lucy Craft Laney Community School used Facebook to offer parents a warning about a dangerous app marketed toward children that school staff members discovered inside a student’s phone.
The Facebook post read, “PARENTS: We have found some pop-ups/apps being marketed toward children through their smart phones. And once they’re clicked on/downloaded, child predators are messaging the children and sending them images. Thankful for our parents that are working with the authorities to track the sources.”
Minneapolis Police are actively investigating the case, after the phone was handed over to the school resource officer and ultimately seized for a more detailed investigation.
“This takes it to a new level,” said Kyle Loven, national director with Computer Forensic Services in Minnetonka.
He has dealt directly with these crimes in his current role at Computer Forensic Services and as a former FBI agent for 22 years.
“Unfortunately, what we are seeing predators use the app to entice and meet kids in the ultimate hope of meeting up and having a liaison with the child, and that is quite troubling,” said Loven. “The predators putting forth these applications are counting on the fact that young kids are going to be curious.”
Loven said predators use specific apps like Bumble, Whisper, Kik, Holla and LiveMe, and said in his experience with similar cases, many apps originate outside of the United States, making it more difficult for law enforcement to trace the crimes when dealing with foreign governments.
He believes the burden of online policing lies in the hands of parents.
“It's easy to sit back and leave technology to the children and young kids. It’s an abdication of parenting. You have to know what you are looking at. If they are applications they don't recognize, or are suspicious of, educate themselves,” said Loven. “I think they need to have eyes wide open.”
Lucy Craft Laney’s Facebook post underscored the need for parents to look deeper into their child’s phone.
“If your kids have phones, CHECK THEM! Monitor their screen time. Take the phones at night. And regularly go through them. Don’t let your kids get caught up in a virtual world that could leave lasting and damaging effects on their real one.”