WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Across the State and the North Country, tragedies involving children being exploited online are becoming front and center.

Commonly used application, such as What’s App, are being utilized by predators online to target kids and teens. 

Local advocates are urging community members to be aware of the potential dangers these apps can pose.

Child Advocacy Center of Northern New York MDT Facilitator Cassidy Crino of the Victims Assistance Center weighed in on the risks.

“Teens are using it to chat with their friends or family members. It’s also being used as a second way to communicate with people,” shared Crino. “They may be meeting strangers or people they haven’t met before on different websites or games, and then they go to WhatsApp because they think it’s a little more private.”

The app can be easily downloaded through the app store, allowing users to quickly make an account by entering basic information and adding their phone number.

As user-friendly as these apps may be, dangerous situations can progress rapidly.

Sometimes without children and teens even knowing, especially with features such as location tracking, disappearing messages ad end-to-end encryption, making it difficult to obtain old messages if they have been deleted.

“The worst feature on there in my opinion, is the live tracking of your location,” expressed Crino. “So if you’ve been building this relationship with an unknown person, or even a trusted person on a different website or a game, then you go to [WhatsApp] and now your location is being shared with them.”

Adding, “for a 13 year old, they may not be thinking that ‘my location could be a dangerous thing.’ ‘Why would it be?’ And they don’t understand that some people don’t always have the best intentions.”

To conclude, ABC50 asked why having these conversation are more important now, than ever.

“It’s important for families to have those open conversations with the children and the teenagers in their lives so that they know that they have a trusted adult, that they can go to,” stated Crino.

Concluding with, “instead of creating awareness after something negative has happened or after somebody who’s had the worst day of their life.”

Included below are tips on how to remain keep children and teens safe on WhatsApp:

  • Remember the 13+ age requirement
  • Encourage teens to have a family group chat to teach online safety
  • Have a open discussion regarding the app
  • Control the location settings