Fort Worth, Texas,
07:48 PM

What Online Predators Do To Connect With Your Kids

Pediatrician offers 5 tips for evaluating if an app or game is right for your child

This afternoon, I saw a couple of tweets from CBS 11 reporter Jack Fink that turned my stomach:

The affidavit included in one of the tweet's details an adult here in North Texas engaged in inapproapriate behavior with a 15-year old child in New Jersey.

It reads: “The victim stated he was playing Minecraft on his computer…and was contacted by a person wanting to chat.”

According to the affidavit, the conversation between the victim and the adult then moved to Skype which led to grooming, sexual messaging and even sexually explicit photos and videos being exchanged.

This is so awful I hate to even post it. But, it is so important to know what kind of predators are out there and what they are doing to connect with your kids.

Predators know what is cool. They know more than you do about what your kids are into.

They know how to reach kids and they will use whatever means necessary to connect with them.

Any app or game with a chat function that is connected to the Internet is a portal for exposure to terrible people with terrible ideas. Be aware and monitor! Turn off the chat function or have your child play in offline mode where able.

Of course, there’s more to evaluating an app or game than just the risk of exposure. Here are some general guidelines for evaluating both for your child.


The 5 C's

1. Content - Is the app or game meant for your child’s age? Is it trying to teach them something or is it for entertainment only? If it is trying to teach them something, is it at the child’s level or just above?

2. Connectivity - Does the app or game require wi-fi? There’s nothing worse than when my kids scream out “Dad, there’s not enough wi-fi!” which really means there’s none.

3. Conversations - Does the app or game allow you child to have conversations with anyone? Most multi-player games allow for a conversation to happen. Be very careful!

4. Cost - And not just the upfront, download cost. Look to see if in-app purchases are an option. Stay clear or make sure that functionality is disabled.

5. Common Sense Media - If you’re not sure or you want to double check, go look the app up on It’s a great resource for information about apps, book, video games, movies, and much more.

Picking apps and games that are fun and entertaining can be challenging but follow these 5 C’s to help you feel more confident. Above all else, protect your child.

About the author

Justin Smith is a pediatrician and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's His interest in communications started when he realized that his parents were relying more on the internet for medical information. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” is set to open in Trophy Club in 2017.

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