With more children in New Jersey going online with their cell phones, tablets and laptops, authorities report the cyber predator problem is getting worse.

New Jersey State Police Lt. John Pizzuro, the commander of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, said parents must have an understanding of the apps their kids are using.

“A lot of times with apps, children will look to hide things. They’ll create fake accounts, they’ll create other folders that they’re able to hide things in from their parents," he said.

State Police Detective Joe Santamaria said this means mom and dad must do their homework.

“Parents just need to be mindful of the apps, do research on the apps, go to Google if you don’t know what an app does or how it works," he said.


Thursday at 7 p.m., State Police and other experts will join New Jersey 101.5's Eric Scott for a special Town Hall on Online Safety. Listen to New Jersey 101.5 FM, stream us via the New Jersey 101.5 app or watch live at Facebook.com/NJ1015.

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A popular way for kids to hide from their parents is to create what's called a "Finstagram" — basically a fake Instagram account in addition to their real one.

One app that hides pictures and videos with a passcode is disguised with a calculator logo.

“Every single phone out there comes installed with a calculator on it already," said Santamaria. “So if you notice there’s two calculator apps on the phone call their bluff, don’t give them an out. Say, 'I know this is one of those encrypted container apps, tell me the code.'”

State Police Detective Sgt. Chris Camm said a lot of apps may look benign “but if a user who knows how to use the app properly starts to click around a little bit, they may find some more stuff within that app.”

He pointed out some of the predators that troll for kids online are tech savvy, while others are not at all.

“They run the entire gamut. You have people who barely even know how to use a cell phone but they figured out how to download an app and then you have advanced users who have servers in their basements set up with encryption and password protection."

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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