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Predators Using Popular Messaging Apps To Target Children

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A warning for parents. Federal and state investigators say sexual predators are targeting a popular kids app, trying to connect with your children.

The app has been at the center of several recent cases across our region.

Rick Ritter has what you need to know.

The warning comes after a local teacher's aide allegedly used the app to share child porn. Investigators want parents to know where their children are--in both the real world and the digital one.

Facebook, WhatsApp, Yik Yak... Hundreds of apps are at the fingertips of children and can be more dangerous than ever.

"It's very scary. You don't know what these children are doing," one woman said.

But one in particular--Kik--the mobile messaging app with 200 million registered users, has been at the center of several recent cases.

"Obviously, it's disturbing. But ultimately, it's the parents' responsibility to parent," said Amy Blue, parent.

Deonte Carraway, a teacher's aide in Price George's County, was charged with child pornography just days ago, accused of videotaping sex acts between minors and sending nude photos to kids through Kik.

"A relative of one of the victims discovered a photograph on the child's phone," said U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein.

The same app was possibly used in the gruesome death of Nicole Lovell. Police believe the 13-year-old communicated with her accused killer, Virginia Tech student and Howard County native David Eisenhauer, on Kik before she was murdered.

"They're animals just on the prowl for their next Nicole," her stepmother said.

Law enforcement says predators typically target apps like Kik, where they can remain anonymous on their phones.

"Predators love things like this because they're preying on individuals who are uneducated," said tech expert Gary Buclous, InfoWorks Technologies.

Buclous says it's more important now than ever for parents to monitor their kids' phones.

"Every generation, there's going to be a new application. So what comes out today, the parents don't know about," he said.

A lot of parents question why these apps can't be shut down. Rosenstein added there will always be apps where people can remain anonymous. It's important for parents to be on the lookout.

"Even if the United States shut down the apps, another country is going to pick it up and go after it. It's very hard to monitor and shut things down that are worldwide," Buclous said.

Police believe there may be more victims in the Prince George's County child pornography case and urge any concerned parents to call them immediately.

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