Utah expert says child predators can get to kids with VR headsets
ROOSEVELT, Utah — Roosevelt Police said a Florida man used a virtual reality headset to meet up with a Utah teen.
It’s just one example of how predators are always looking for new ways to reach our kids.
VR may be a newer technology, but experts said it’s the same old tactics that were being used to try and groom teens online.
As VR becomes more common, the ways to exploit it will grow.
“No, it’s not surprising,” said Michelle Busch-Upwall. If there’s a way to find and interact with kids, online predators will use it.
“There’s new technology coming up every single day and so we just kind of have to keep our eyes on that,” the education specialist with Utah’s Internet Crimes against Children Task Force said.
Busch-Upwall said parents have to make sure they understand the technology they’re handing over to their kids.
“There’s so much accessibility to our kids now via apps, all these different things that we’ve got to make sure that we understand how they work before we’re handing our kids this information,” she explained.
She added parents need to set boundaries and away time because kids won’t police themselves. Just as important is being able to have open discussions about what they’re doing, and what can go wrong.
“That is our first line of defense and we want them to feel comfortable to be able to come to us as parents and adults if and when something happens to them,” she said.
There are parental controls and monitoring software that can be helpful, but she said it’s also important to avoid ruling with an iron fist or being threatening.
There has to be a balance.
“Unfortunately, that does backfire because then kids will go around parents’ backs. They’ll hide. There’s a lot of apps out there that hide other apps,” she said.
In the end, parents and kids have to be a team.
“It’s not one conversation. It’s continuing conversations and evolving conversations,” Busch-Upwall said.
Chances are, you’re going to let your teens go online in some form. Busch-Upwall said to make sure they keep private profiles. It can be a big problem when anyone can see what they’re posting and get a window into their social lives.
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