Mesa detective shares tips for protecting your children online

Shopping for a tablet? 3 On Your Side's Gary Harper has some consumer reports ready to help you...
Shopping for a tablet? 3 On Your Side's Gary Harper has some consumer reports ready to help you choose the right fit for your family.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 10:48 PM MST
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MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – If it sounds improbable, a 12-year-old girl goes missing, found ten days later and nearly 2000 miles away, with a man accused of child rape and kidnapping, those in law enforcement are not surprised. In the wake of the case out of Safford, Arizona’s Family went to the experts for advice on how to keep kids safe.

First and foremost, they stress it’s essential to get into your kid’s business. Talk to them about the dangers social media platforms pose. “It happens a lot. It just goes to show his determination, of getting this young girl and taking her with him,” Detective Scott Pietrzak with the Mesa Police Department said. He specializes in internet crimes against children, and he was so concerned that he started his own company, Online Safety Specialist, to teach families about internet safety.

“Know what their passwords and usernames are, know their friends, who they’re chatting with,” he said.

He recommends that adults do random spot checks of their kid’s devices – phones, computers, and tablets. “Knowing the parental controls on the phone and not just on phones, but apps as well. Because sometimes the apps will override the parental controls on the phone,” Pietrzak said.

If you’re not tech-savvy, there’s always Google and YouTube. Graham County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Jeff McCormies, whose office investigated this latest case, offered advice. “Our children educate the parents and maybe show them how certain things are done,” he said.

“We all want to be our kid’s best friends; we don’t want our kids to be mad at us, absolutely, but, first and foremost, before we’re a friend, we’re a parent,” Pietrzak said.

The victim’s father told Arizona’s Family part of the challenge at the start of the investigation was that he couldn’t unlock his daughter’s tablet; he didn’t have the password. Authorities managed to do it, but it took time.