How to monitor kids’ online activity and keep them safe

Using apps like Life360 can help you keep track of your child.
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 1:25 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The South Carolina man accused of kidnapping a 12-year-old girl from Safford, Arizona, is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon on two federal charges. According to court documents, Timothy Schultheis targeted the girl on social media.

“A story like this is scary. As a parent, I look at this and it makes me afraid for everything,” said Chris Hadnagy, the founder of the Innocent Lives Foundation, which helps identify child predators. The group has submitted more than 400 cases to law enforcement in the past five years. 3 On Your Side asked him for advice on protecting children online.

“I can tell you what I did with my kids,” Hadnagy said. “All of their devices had monitoring applications on it, so I can block certain websites, so I was notified if someone that wasn’t in their friends list started to ping them. Installation of apps had to be approved by me.” One of the apps Hadnagy used was OurPact. “It allowed me to even say, ‘I want to see all private chats in this app.’”

Hadnagy said that he also used Life360. “It allows you to see where your child is at all times,” he said. “That app also has the ability for the child to hit an SOS and say, ‘I’m in trouble,’ and that sends a location out to a bunch of emergency contacts.” Safety features and parental controls are also built into phones and can be accessed in settings.

“We didn’t do that covertly,” Hadnagy said. “We communicated with her and we told her, ‘This is not because we don’t trust you. We do trust you. You’re an intelligent young woman. We know you’re going to make good decisions. The problem is it’s everyone else we don’t trust.’ And then we had a very candid conversation with her about the dangers that were out there.”

One red flag parents should be aware of, according to Hadnagy, is a disappearing chat. “If you see a chat that always seems to be empty, but it looks it had some activity but you can’t read any of the chats, start asking your child who is this and why are these chats disappearing,” Hadnagy said. “A lot of times, groomers, what they do is they try to get a child to move to an application like Kik where they can delete the chats or the chats are private and not able to be seen.”