Experts warn of rise in cyber bullying and online predators

With kids out of school and on their devices more than ever during the pandemic, experts are warning parents about a rise in cyber bullying and other online predators.

Jeanne Ryan’s sixth-grade daughter is home from school, and Ryan says she spends hours on her iPad talking to friends and playing games.

“She’s on videochat, at least a couple of hours a day,” Ryan told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik. “She does love Tik-Tok. She’s a Tik-Toker.”

Ryan said she keeps tabs on her daughter’s internet time, but she worries about people trying to take advantage.

“It definitely is an issue and something that has to be constantly addressed,” she said. “You just can’t be too safe and cyber bullying is a real thing and absolutely kids are at risk.”

Johns Creek Police recently tweeted a warning to parents about a rise in cyber bullying, and internet security experts are predicting the increase, too.

“We already knew that pre-quarantine children were experiencing things like cyber bullying, sexual content, thoughts of suicide and depression and online predators that any parent could have ever fathomed,” said Titania Jordan, Chief Parenting Officer of Atlanta-based “Bark,” an application that monitors children’s internet use.

Jordan said parents need to talk to their children, even younger ones, about being safe online.

“Have honest, ongoing conversations with your kids,” she said. “They’re spending upwards of eight hours a day online. We wouldn’t let them go into the world without knowing what they’re doing and what they’re involved in. We have to do the same thing with our digital lives.”

Jordan told Petchenik Bark currently monitors about 5-million kids’ accounts.

“Over half of them each month have a flag to their accounts and their devices,” she said. “80 percent of the time their parents didn’t even know there was a problem.”