How to keep kids safe from dangerous apps

I-TEAM finds popular app raises red flags about safety of children, teens

By Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An I-TEAM investigation into the LiveMe app uncovered live videos showing children and young teens interacting with adults, who persuaded them to take off their clothes.

We even found predators preying on children in Jacksonville and Orange Park.

News4Jax informed the FBI and local police agencies about what we found concerning the app, which has millions of users.

LiveMe administrators said employees do keep an eye out for inappropriate or illegal contact.

So how do parents spot the red flags and talk to their teens about their concerns?

Psychologist  Justin D'Arienzo, a father of four, spoke with Jennifer Waugh on The Morning Show about what draws children to these apps and why they're so dangerous.

JW: What makes these kids so vulnerable it seems to wanting to show themselves dancing in a small sports bra and get all these likes? This fascination with as many people liking it as possible is unreal.
JD: We forget that we are not dealing with little adults. We are dealing with children that do not have developed brains yet, so those undeveloped brains and immature brains predispose them to recklessness, poor judgment and then also that need to get all that approval from their peer group. You think about when you and I grew up, our peer group were our teens. Now, the peer group is worldwide. And when kids hear the dings and they get little special badges, it is designed to reinforce them and to even keep them from sharing more. This is really scary to me. I did some research about this site too and read that there have been 90 million downloads to this thing. 
It's such an important topic, too, (because) 92 percent of kids today daily look at social media. And I read last night that 39 percent of teenagers have sent sexually explicit material through social media. Every parent needs to pay attention to this. This is really important stuff.

JW: I feel like as a news agency, we're constantly warning parents about this. Is it that they just make assumptions about their kids? 'Oh well, they're so young. They don't have a phone. They only have an iPad.' That they're just not aware that this is going on?
JD: I think, again, it's believing that they're little adults, and 'it would never be my kids.' Parents are in denial about what their children are doing. In my practice, I hear about the worst stories all the time. It's really important to build a culture of communication with your kids. You've got to have open lines of communication. What I have said to my children is, 'There is no problem that I can't help you with. I can fix anything.' And I said to my teenage daughter last night -- because this story reminded me that I needed to reengage this conversation -- I said, 'Of course, you are to never send pictures or videos, but if somebody convinces you and they're trying to extort you to send more. You come to tell me. I will fix this problem.' Parents need to instill that trust in their kids, so kids know that their parents can fix anything.

JW: I think perhaps children think, 'Oh, if I tell mom and dad, I'll get into trouble.' You almost have to have that conversation that, 'Look, as long as you're honest, you're not going to get in trouble. As long as we can talk about this before you make a mistake that you can't take back.'
JD: And empathizing with your kids about what peer pressure is. Because kids often, even with social media, kids will say, 'Don't tell your mom what I said.' And you hear about it. And that can be the beginning of the conversation.

For more from this interview, watch the video above or click here.

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