MARSHALL, Mich. — The world is at a child’s fingertips with every social media application right on their cell phone, Ipad, computer and even video games.
It’s getting harder and harder for parents to monitor their kids’ every move.
A West Michigan mother says that firsthand when her 14-year-old daughter was brought all the way to Georgia by a man twice her age that she met online.
Hannah Amaro is expected to return to Michigan in the near future, and the identity of the man that picked her up and drove her states away is Victor Alfonso Martinez, who’s now behind bars. He will be facing charges in both Georgia and Michigan.
Hannah Amaro is in the custody of Child Protective Services until she makes her way back home.
Authorities in Georgia have confiscated Martinez’s electronics to make sure he wasn’t preying on other young girls.
Local authorities say there are preventative measures parents can take to keep their kids out of harm’s way.
“One of the examples we had most recently was a Play Station game, and the parent had taken away other devices in the home that had Internet connections like Iphones, Ipads, and latop computers. The parent didn’t think about the Play Station. They thought the only thing a kid can do on it was play a video game. In actuality the kid was able to hook it up to the Internet. The child made contact with a much older individual and was picked up,” said Captain Mark Bennett of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department.
Bennett says the solution comes with something simple in nature: parent and child interaction.
“Know what your kids are doing online, know the capabilities of the devices they are using. That doesn’t mean you need to know how to build an electronic device or necessarily be an expert in one. Just simply know the capabilities,” he said.
Blocking certain Web sites, time restrictions of computer use, and check-ups are all steps parents can take according to Bennett. There are even applications to track your child like “Glympse,” a GPS on-the-go. It shows where your child is before and after school. Another application called ‘Dad-Guard’ is an option. It copies e-mails and instant messages, and monitors your child’s activity, so you can see it in real time.
These are all preventative tools that a parent can use, but Bennett says that’s not necessarily the answer.
“When it comes to the children and the devices they are using, it’s just old fashioned parenting,” he said.