Homeland Security launches new push to protect children from online predators

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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
New federal program aims to protect kids from online predators
Sonia Rincon has more on the programs and when it will be available.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Homeland Security launched a brand new initiative Wednesday aimed at protecting children from online predators.

It is called "Know 2 Protect."

The announcement was made in New York because of the campaign's corporate and nonprofit partners who are helping promote it with tips like how to spot fake profiles and keep settings as private as possible.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas says the initiative will not only prevent abuse and empower young people, but it will educate their parents and guardians as well.

The effort offers practical tips on spotting the signs of online grooming and abuse so kids don't have to feel embarrassed about it.

The new federal campaign is now flooding digital platforms including Snapchat.

Snapchat's platform safety lead, Viraj Doshi, say the initiative fits in with the company's existing efforts to keep predators away from kids.

"We employ a series of proactive and reactive technologies and assist law enforcement agencies in their investigations to bring abusers to justice," Doshi said.

Homeland Security is behind campaign because its agencies investigate these interstate crimes with trained agents and even a K-9 named Mojo who can sniff out hidden digital devices like cameras during an investigation.

"Predators go where kids go," said Homeland Security's Kate Kennedy. "In the past it was playgrounds, parks. The new digital environment is where predators like to hang out."

The campaign and website offer tips to kids and to parents, who might be a little intimidated by their kids' technology.

"You don't need to be an IT professional to understand basic preventative strategies, like turning off your geolocation, turning on the privacy settings," said Kennedy.

Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary, says prevention is key.

Last year the reports of suspected online exploitation of kid to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children increased to 36 million.

"The volume of incoming reports has increased more than 20% over the past 3 years," Mayorkas said. "The number of urgent, imminent reports involving a child at risk of imminent harm has grown by more than 140% over that same time frame."

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