STAFFORD — A 19-year-old man used social media to meet a young girl he sexually assaulted over several weeks — often climbing through her bedroom window for the encounters, police said.

Joseph Barden, 19, from the Bayville section of Berkeley Township was arrested on Saturday after police received a report of the sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl a day earlier. Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato said Barden met girl through Facebook and talked to her for several weeks through social media and on the phone.

Coronato said the two exchanged pictures, and eventually Barden went to the home on Jan. 19, and sexually assaulted the girl. Barden has been charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, and endangering the welfare of a child. He was taken to the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing.

A year ago, in preparation for a special New Jersey 101.5 town hall on child predators, State Police said online predators use dozens of apps and services to connect with children — encouraging parents to be vigilant when their kids are exploring even what seem to be the safest online communities.

Facebook used to be a more common mechanism for reaching out to children, the State Police said. But they may be targeted through less well-known sites and even games like Minecraft, State Police said.

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