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Cybersecurity expert tackles when kids should have phones, and safety tips

The National Children for Missing and Exploited Children reported a 97.5 percent increase in online enticement 2020.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — In 2020, we saw a record-breaking rise in online crimes against children during the pandemic. Oftentimes these crimes happen through devices, like smartphones.

It begs us to wonder, when should kids have a cell phone of their own? WZDX's Keneisha Deas has some tips from a cybersecurity expert. 

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported a whopping 97.5% increase in online enticement 2020.

“They can explore the entirety of the internet of things. The applications that are on those phones. Some of them are reporting back to China. Some of them have inappropriate behavior sort of embedded in the logs on those applications,” said Gray Analytics Vice President and General Counsel Jay Town.

The question is, what age is appropriate to have these devices, to begin with?

“What age do we let our children get access to that material is going to be answered by, what age have we taught our kids to avoid it,” said Town.

Town says if you do give your phone to a child, it's important to safeguard personal information.

“You need to continue to update those devices. You need to continue to change passwords,” said Town.

There's such a thing as ‘hidden apps’, which can be a gateway to online enticement. But experts say there is a way for you to track these hidden apps.

“You also can do that through your iTunes store or your Google store or whatever it might be or whatever platform it might be. Whatever platform you’re using so that you know as a parent what apps, what applications are on a particular cell phone,” said Town.

Town says parents can only do so much to protect their children. He said to make sure your kids are vigilant even when you’re away.  

“Our children need to know that whatever photos they take, and they text it to someone with a promise, a pinky-swear, that it will never be forwarded; it will be instantly deleted. Well, that’s not always the case. Whatever we put online, is going to be there, assume that it will be there, forever.” said Town.