Through an online chat, Fairfax County police are leading an initiative to stop online child predators by educating parents.
The chat was held in a fifth-floor room in the Fairfax County Government Center, led by Lieutenant James Bacon, who leads the department’s Child Exploitation Unit.
“It’s like having a pool in your backyard,” Bacon said, referring to social media and new apps that allow anonymity.
"When your kid is little you can’t let your kid go into the pool without you being right there with them," he said. "When they get older you can give them a little more distance, but you always got to be watching.”
Recent search warrants pulled by News4’s northern Virginia bureau show the child predators often using new social apps.
Elaine Keltz is a mom to three young kids. She considers herself tech savvy, but admits she can’t keep up with the changing social media.
“That is absolutely scary that kids are finding anything out online without your knowledge,” Keltz said.
“There are sheep, there are wolves, and then there are the sheep dogs,” Bacon said. "The sheep dogs got to be close to the sheep because the wolf isn’t far behind.”
Police hosted Wednesday's chat because they say child predators -- the so-called wolves -- are growing bolder. And kids are often too easily falling victim through apps on their phones.
Typing alongside Lt. Bacon for the chat was Andrea Khoury, a Fairfax County consumer specialist.
Her advice to parents is to “check (your kid's) web history, their browsing history, and there are plenty of apps on the market that will let you do this.”
“You have to have your kids passwords,” Lt. Bacon added. “You got to keep an eye on what they do, because if you don’t I guarantee you somebody else is keeping an eye on your kids; it’s not the person you want to be doing it.”