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STATEWIDE — Child predators are using any means necessary to abuse children. As a parent or loved one, you have to get educated about the ways predators are trying to satisfy their sick desires.

Social media applications and other online platforms have become a favorite for predators. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Kik, Discord – these are just a few of the platforms available to both predators and your child.

You probably read several news stories about adults collecting sexual images and videos of children, only to be busted by the cops. Detectives cannot solve these crimes without the help of these platforms, and that’s just part of the reason why you probably see these platforms called out by name.

“One of the reasons you see these platforms named is because I think it’s important for the public to know, for parents to know, for children to know, that none of these platforms are fully safe,” says Zachary Myers, United States attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, “if it can be used to communicate, predators are going to use it to communicate with children, seeking to engage in unlawful behavior.”

Justin Owens, a 63-year-old man from Evansville, was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in federal prison for illegal gun possession charges and distribution of child sex abuse materials charges. That last part is key because investigators discovered that Owens used Instagram Direct to collect sexual images and videos.

Myers says these platforms typically try to help law enforcement in any way they can, such as scanning phones/tablets/computers for child sex material. That’s when the platform contacts a place like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which then leads to the Indiana State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which then continues all the way until a predator is busted.

“Arrests like this would not work if we were not able, and wouldn’t happen, if we didn’t have the ability to, through legal means and legal process, access the information and illegal images that these offenders are trading,” Myers explains.

He says you, a parent or loved one, can provide the first and strongest line of defense for your child.

“All we can do for the young people in our lives, is talk to them. [We can] teach them about Internet safety, teach them about body safety, teach them that if someone is making them uncomfortable, you need to talk to a trusted adult.”