Internet safety: Protecting kids from predators online

Cyber safety expert weighs in on ways parents can keep their children safe on the internet

ROANOKE, Va. – A former Virginia State trooper, 28-year-old Austin Edwards, reportedly traveled across the country to meet a teen he met online. He abducted her and killed her family. Edwards was killed in a shootout with police and the teen is now safe, but California police believe she met him online, where he pretended to be younger than his age.

“He developed a relationship with her enough where we believe there might have a been an exchange of texts maybe phone calls and he was able to get her personal information, able to get her address obviously,” said Officer Ryan Railsback with the Riverside Police Department.

It’s one of many horror stories involving online predators.

One closer to home – the murder of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell. She was lured from her home through the Kik chat app in Blacksburg in 2016 by two Virginia Tech students.

More recently, a 12-year-old from Henry County was abducted after meeting a 21-year-old man from Texas who communicated through Instagram and the Discord app.

“Kids are so vulnerable, all you have to do is have a couple of bad days and you don’t think your parents love you and this kind of thing, and yet you have someone on the other end taking your side of all the problems,” said Eddie Worth, the Executive Director and President of the Safe Surfin’ Foundation.

The foundation is a cyber safety and responsibility educational initiative created by law enforcement professionals to protect youth online. They also have ways for parents to keep their kids safe from predators.

“For them, I say trust but verify. Know the passwords, know how to get into the computers, the iPads. Understand that when they go to someone else’s house there are devices there they can use as well,” added Worth.

For resources and more information to keep youth safe online, you visit the Safe Surfin’ Foundation website.

About the Author:

Alyssa Rae grew up in Roanoke and graduated from Virginia Tech. An avid sports fan, she spent her first 8 years in TV as a sports anchor and reporter.