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Alief ISD warning parents about role-playing app they say could attract sex predators

The role-playing app called Party in my Dorm targets teens and could attract sexual predators, according to the school district.

HOUSTON — Hastings High School student Diana Santibanez said unsolicited messages on apps are a constant concern.

“I’ve gotten tons of them,” Santibanez said.

She tries to stop whenever they pop up.

“I block them and I report them immediately to the social media page or the administrators,” she said.

She wasn't aware that "Party In My Dorm,” a role-playing app marketed to teens, was something that the Alief Independent School District is now warning families about. The district posted a message from the superintendent over the weekend in which he states the app may attract child sex predators.

"We have been made aware that it is being used to target and 'friend' children by strangers who may cause them harm,” the message said.

"You never really know exactly who you’re talking to on an app,” said Michael "High Tech Texan" Garfield.

Garfield said social media platforms and apps have long hidden potential dangers and suggested parents or guardians closely watch what children are using. Consider installing website tracking or screen monitoring systems to keep even closer tabs.

"I could pretend I’m a 16-year-old female just looking for some girls to hang out with or whatever, like in high school," Garfield said. "Therein lies the issue.”

Alief ISD didn't share too many details behind its aggressive stance on Party in My Dorm. But the district encourages anyone who encounters problems to report them like Santibanez always tries to do.

"And to have as much supervision as possible when your kid is entering games that use the global web more," Santibanez said.

We reached out to Party in My Dorm's developer but haven’t heard back.

Here are Internet/app safety tips via the U.S. Department of Justice:

  • Discuss internet safety and develop an online safety plan with children before they engage in online activity. Establish clear guidelines, teach children to spot red flags, and encourage children to have open communication with you.
  • Supervise young children’s use of the internet, including periodically checking their profiles and posts. Keep electronic devices in open, common areas of the home and consider setting time limits for their use.
  • Review games, apps, and social media sites before they are downloaded or used by children. Pay particular attention to apps and sites that feature end-to-end encryption, direct messaging, video chats, file uploads, and user anonymity, which are frequently relied upon by online child predators.
  • Adjust privacy settings and use parental controls for online games, apps, social medial sites, and electronic devices.
  • Tell children to avoid sharing personal information, photos, and videos online in public forums or with people they do not know in real life. Explain to your children that images posted online will be permanently on the internet.
  • Teach children about body safety and boundaries, including the importance of saying ‘no’ to inappropriate requests both in the physical world and the virtual world.
  • Be alert to potential signs of abuse, including changes in children’s use of electronic devices, attempts to conceal online activity, withdrawn behavior, angry outbursts, anxiety, and depression.
  • Encourage children to tell a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult if anyone asks them to engage in sexual activity or other inappropriate behavior.
  • Immediately report suspected online enticement or sexual exploitation of a child by calling 911, contacting the FBI at tips.fbi.gov, or filing a report with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-843-5678 or report.cybertip.org.

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