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DPS encourages online safety to prevent exploitation of kids

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ABILENE, Texas - Just a day after Abilene police arrested a retired assistant fire chief at Dyess for online solicitation of a minor, Hendrick Medical Center hosted an event to teach first responders to recognize similar situations in an effort to prevent them from happening again.

Over 200 social workers, law enforcement, CPS workers, and medical examiners attended the third annual 'Kids Count On Us' seminar to prevent child abuse.

Capt. Brian Baxter with the Department of Public Safety Education and Training Division spoke at the seminar about ways to identify and prevent solicitation and exploitation of children over the internet.

"To be relevant in 2017-18, we have to have a digital footprint, and our kids are ... growing up in an age where its not even an option, its not a choice, its just the way things are," Baxter said.

Smartphone apps like Facebook, Snapchat, Kik, Musically, and others let users connect with others across the world, and Baxter recognized the apps themselves aren't the culprits.

"You'd think it's pretty innocent and it is, it's intended to be very innocent," said Baxter.

But some apps and games let your kids have the ability to talk to anyone, including those they don't know.

"We do internet stings where we'll go on Craigslist on raids and post something as simple as 'I hate my parents,' and instantly -- I don't know the polite way to say the types of pictures that come in instantly," Baxter said.

Baxter says being aware of what your kids are doing, posting, or playing is the first step. Parental control software is one way to help you keep an eye on who your kids are talking to and what websites they're visiting.

"We have to be at least alert to the idea that it's a risk. We have to be aware of it," Baxter said.

If you suspect someone of being a predator, contact CPS or go to iwatchtx.org.

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