HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The Harris County Precinct One Constable’s Office is warning parents to be extra vigilant as online child predators are targeting children are home from school during the coronavirus pandemic.
Investigators said they have seen an increase in activity on social media platforms where predators commonly seek out children.
"This is a predator's playground," said Constable Alan Rosen. "Parents can't be so preoccupied with working now from home or the responsibilities of homeschooling that they neglect their obligation to be involved enough to know who their children are talking to online."
A multi-day online undercover operation by the agency netted 10 arrests of suspects accused of soliciting minors.
According to officials, the suspects included a United States Postal Service letter carrier, a Bandido gang member and a man who took an Uber to meet what he thought was an underage girl.
During the operation, undercover officers used online personas, posing as minors in various social media apps. Officers worked to identify and arrest adults using the internet and social media to sexually exploit children by soliciting sex and/or sex-related acts.
The suspects have been charged with online solicitation of a minor. If convicted, they could face probation or 2 to 20 years in prison.
Constable Rosen offered the following tips for parents:
- Look often at your child's phone, laptop or other devices
- Set up a monitoring app and/or increase privacy restrictions
- Read the conversations they are having
- Talk to your child about online safety.
- Remind your children they should only talk to people they know in real life
- Encourage them to report inappropriate conversations to a trusted adult
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