New Jersey’s top state law enforcement official has a special message for parents this holiday season – educate your kids about cyber predators who are lurking in the shadows of the Internet.

New Jersey Attorney General Chris Porrino said with many parents giving their kids smartphones, tablets and other electronic gadgets for the holidays, it’s important for mom and dad to pay attention and explain to children the dangers they face online.

“You have to watch your children to see, are they behaving differently," he said. "Are they being secretive or protective with their cell phone or their computer?”

Porrino said checking your kid’s cell phone or computer for anything suspicious is important, but you also need to talk to them about the dangers that are out there, because as they get older they have multiple options about sites that allow them to chat, send pictures and videos.

“It’s very difficult to say, 'OK, you’re not going to be allowed on Facebook.' You think you’ve solved the problem? Forget it," Porrino said.

If you tell your kids they’re banned from using sites like Snapchat or Instagram “you can forget that too, because behind those are another dozen that you haven’t heard of, and so education is a really important step that parents must take," he said.

He said if you don’t think you kids are going to run into potentially dangerous situations online all the time, you need to wake up.

“This is happening. The predators are out there. They’re in New Jersey and around the country and our kids need to armed with the information to protect themselves," he said.

He advised parents to to ask their children questions specifically about what they’re doing on the Internet, about their devices, about what apps they’re on.

The New Jersey State Police are traveling around New Jersey, holding training sessions in schools and elsewhere, on what apps and sites to be looking out for.

He said the bottom line for parents is “use your instincts, pay attention to your kids, follow them on whichever social media accounts you are aware of.”

“And be aware that kids don’t just use Instagram in one way. They also have 'finstas,' which is their fake Instagram, different Instagram account — they all have them," he said. “If you have kids that are on Instagram there’s an excellent chance they have a finsta. Ask them about it. Watch out for gaming systems too. If you’ve got internet access, you are at risk.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM