COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- - When it comes to the internet, what are the most prevalent crimes against children, who's tackling them, and how can you keep your kids safe?
We spoke with Sgt. Jason Ledbetter, who leads the Colorado Springs Police Department's Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, about these issues.
"The child pornography is what we see the most," Ledbetter said.
The unit sees about 150 cases each month in which either the suspect or the victim is from Colorado.
The unit also deals with internet luring.
"We are actually the lead agency in Colorado when it comes to sexual exploitation," he said.
Ledbetter said any app with a social aspect, like chatting or texting, can be abused.
"We give our children smartphones and it's similar to giving them the keys to a Ferrari and saying 'Be careful,'" he said.
He urges parents to always have access to their children’s phones and the passwords to their social media accounts.
"A better way maybe to approach it is, 'You can do this as long as I know passwords, that your friends are ones you know in person, face-to-face, and I also know as a parent who those friends are,'" he said.
So how do child pornographers get ahold of compromising pictures?
"A lot of them are chat apps that allow you to chat with strangers, video chat with strangers," Ledbetter said.
Those strangers often pretend to be another kid or teenager.
"It inevitably goes to 'Send me a pic,'" he said.
That could sound as innocent as a picture of their face, but from there, requests escalate.
"Inevitably they're asking for a nude photograph," he said. "The relationship has evolved online enough sometimes that the victim is comfortable enough to do that. Once it's done, the suspect asks for more and then uses those images to blackmail the victim into sending more, or sending money in some cases."
Once an image is shared online, it's on the internet forever.
"We see child pornography that's been around as long as the internet, and it keeps coming back up. That child, who is now an adult, is re-victimized."
Ledbetter said parents of younger kids should be aware they can be victimized through games on their devices.
"We found predators have exploited that as well," he said. "They see that as an in to talk with children. They talk with them for a little bit and they get them onto a different platform for communicating."
Ledbetter urges parents to instill good online practices in children when they're young. He said 5 years old is not too young to start this conversation.