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Police warn parents about dangerous apps

You may have heard of Snapchat and WhatsApp, but what about Hot Or Not and Whisper?

Police are warning parents to be aware of potentially dangerous apps and social media sites after a Rogue Valley man was arrested on accusations he targeted a girl online.

Christopher Robert Nettifee, 46, of Grants Pass faces charges of attempted use of a child in a display of sexually explicit content, luring a minor, and second-degree online sexual corruption of a child.

He is scheduled to appear Sept. 5 in Josephine County Circuit Court.

The Grants Pass Department of Public Safety began investigating Nettifee after receiving a complaint that he was contacting juvenile females online. According to the complaint, Nettifee appeared to be an adult man and had sent a photo of his bare genitals.

A police officer contacted Nettifee via text while pretending to be an 11-year-old girl, according to a probable cause affidavit.

“The subject sent numerous pictures of his penis and requested nude pictures from the purported 11-year-old. The subject was subsequently identified and admitted to the conduct,” the affidavit alleged.

“The Grants Pass Department of Public Safety would like to remind parents to become familiar with the different social media sites and apps their children are using,” police said in a press release this week.

To help parents bewildered by the constant stream of new apps, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in Florida created a list called “The 15 Apps Parents Should Know About.”

The list went viral after being shared by Enough Is Enough, an internet safety organization.

“What originally began as a list of nine apps parents should know about quickly grew to 15 and there are more out there,” Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight told the group.

During an undercover operation, 25 men used the apps to try and arrange sex with who they believed were 14-year-old children, he said.

“We will continue to conduct these operations and add to this list so long as the internet and social media is used to lure and prey on our children,” Knight said.

For consenting adults who know how to take safety precautions, the apps can be a way to meet people and stay in touch with friends.

But the apps can expose kids to predators, graphic content and online bullying.

Parents should stay aware of the apps and sites their children are using and the information kids are posting, Enough Is Enough advised.

Parents should teach their kids to use privacy settings, avoid in-person meetings with unknown people, be honest about their age when signing up for apps, avoid inappropriate content and behavior and remember that all posts are either public or could become public, according to Enough Is Enough.

Police say the following apps can be especially dangerous for kids.

  • Snapchat has become popular because messages and photos sent via the app disappear after a short period of time. People can see users’ locations, and the “stories” feature keeps content alive for 24 hours.
  • Grindr is a dating app for gay, bisexual and transgender adults 18 and older, but young teens have been known to lie about their ages and meet adults for sex.
  • Whisper encourages anonymous users to share secrets and can be narrowed to a geographic area, a group or a school.
  • Hot Or Not allows users to rate the attractiveness of other people by viewing their photos, chat with strangers and meet.
  • Bumble is a dating app that requires women to make the first contact, but as with the hook-up apps Grindr and Tinder, kids can fake their age.
  • Skout and Badoo are other dating apps that has been used by adults to target underage teens who post profiles that fake their age.
  • MeetMe allows users to connect based on geographic proximity and meet people in-person, including strangers.
  • WhatsApp is a messaging app that allows users to share texts, photos, voicemails and their location worldwide.
  • LiveMe is for those ages 17 and older, but kids can post live videos of themselves — exposing them to cyberbullying, harassment, online grooming and predatory behavior. Users can earn money for posting videos.
  • Ask.fm, which encourages people to ask each other anonymous questions, has been flagged for abusive, bullying and sexualized content. Users can post their birth date, gender, location and other personal information, but can’t see the identities of their followers.
  • TikTok is popular with kids because it helps them make and share short videos. The videos have attracted pedophiles and can expose kids to sexual messages.
  • HOLLA randomly matches people around the world in live video chats. Some users have faced racist slurs and explicit content.
  • Calculator% can be used to hide apps, videos, browser history and other content.
  • Kik allows users to send direct messages, photos and videos. The app has been criticized for exposing kids to graphic content and predators.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

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