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Experts offer tips for your kids’ internet safety

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SALT LAKE CITY — The case of 26-year-old Nikko Perez, the California man who admitted to convincing 8- and 10-year-old stepbrothers from Utah to send him sexually explicit images via Instagram, has local parents wondering what they can do to protect their kids on the internet.

Michelle Busch-Upwall from Utah’sĀ Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force says the best piece of advice is not to threaten to take a phone away if a child does something wrong.

“Kids absolutely won’t tell their parents things because they say they’re going to be punished. And so, parents, instead of having a conversation about this, they just instantly take things away,” she said. “Phones are the lifelines for kids. With parents making threats, it makes children scared to come forward if anything does happen because they think they’re going to get in trouble.”

Perez had threatened the boys, saying he’d show the photos or harm their family members if they told anyone. The boys’s mother eventually found the pictures.

Busch-Upwall recommends talking with your kids about internet safety and how to spot a predator. Social media accounts, if kids have them, should be set to private to reduce the chances of anyone finding and contacting your kids. Parents are also encouraged to get a cell phone plan or software to see what’s on their children’s phones.

One in five kids will be sexually solicited on the internet, with predators finding victims on social media, messaging apps, and through online gaming.