Facebook Takes Steps to Protect Minors - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Facebook Takes Steps to Protect Minors

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If you're not on Facebook, chances are you know someone who is.

The website is taking a new precaution to protect minors.

They recently launched a graph search feature, which allows users to find others who meet certain criteria, such as common interest, hometown, or school.

But, details on minors are restricted to friends and friends of friends.

Computer crime specialist Nicholas Newman said it's difficult for Facebook to enforce these settings.

"What Facebook is trying to do is making Facebook a safer place for minors, so what they're doing is limiting the amount of data that gets shared if you're under the age of 18, that also assumes that everybody that's under that age really is," Newman said.

Sergeant James Kozik of the West Virginia State Police, who works for the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, said these changes actually make his job more difficult because child predators who use the Internet are usually up-to-date on these updates.

"We always try and stay one step ahead of the bad guys, for our efforts, we're usually one step behind them. These guys are well-schooled in what they do. So, kids nowadays, of course, they don't care so much for their parents and things, these guys feed upon that, they feed upon the weak children," Kozik said.

Last year alone, Kozik reported there were 439 cases where adults sexually abused children they met on the Internet.

Kozik said the predators have a particular way to reel children in.

"So, they'll talk to the kids and say, well, you're parents don't love you like I do. I know how to love you. I know how to take care of you. So, it's called grooming. They groom the children into thinking that these guys are their life and they'll do anything for them," Kozik said.

He offered suggestions on ways to protect your children.

"Know what you're children are doing. Don't let the kids have laptops in their rooms, make sure the computer is located somewhere in the house that can easily be monitored by the parents. Have passwords, have settings that don't allow them to go to certain sites.
If you do let them have Facebook or other social media, make sure you know the passwords, so that you can log on and see the activity that they're doing," Kozik said.

Newman agreed with Kozik's advice and urged people to remember, "if you want to keep your stuff private, don't put it on the Internet."