Experts warn about child safety online after Waco man arrested

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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) — Child safety is on the minds of many.

Friday, Waco police arrested Brian May for violating its sex offender registration requirements. He was arrested after being recognized by police from a YouTube video, where another man posed as a 14-year-old girl.

These interactions, some experts say, happen more often than you might think. But having a good relationship with a child could be a safeguard if a similar problem arose.

“It’s certainly not an anomaly, it’s certainly common for this type of conversation to occur,” said Tammy Bracewell, associate professor of criminal justice at Texas A&M University Central Texas.

Keeping children safe online is becoming increasingly difficult, she said. For most of her professional career, she has investigated or researched crimes against children.

“It’s definitely a lot harder than it was three years ago for parents to keep tabs on what their kids are doing online,” Bracewell said.

His advice is to always know what apps kids are using, know their passwords, and set strict times to turn off devices.

But even these precautions have limits.

“It’s also our kids’ ability to outsmart us and know how things work,” Bracewell said.

In many cases, children don’t realize how dangerous online interactions with strangers can be, she added.

“You have a screen up and realistically you have no idea who’s on the other side of the screen,” Bracewell said. “And that’s inherently the problem and children aren’t in that danger.”

However, comfort, she said, is key to keeping children safe. If they feel comfortable talking to their parents or guardians, they may not want to keep things a secret.

“It’s through that open dialogue that if they’re exposed, you hope your child will come and talk to you instead of keeping it a secret,” Bracewell said.

Related link: Waco sex offender arrested after being recorded in YouTube video by man impersonating girl

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