PASADENA ( — An author and cyber-crimes expert is providing parents with tips on how to keep their kids safe from predators.

From Facebook to Instagram to new social media sites like Whisper, dangerous strangers are lurking online.

“Parents should be very scared,” Tyler Cohen Wood said.

Wood, a senior officer and a cyber branch chief for the Defense Intelligence Agency within the Department of Defense, wrote a book called “Catching the Catfishers: Disarm the Online Pretenders, Predators, and Perpetrators Who Are Out to Ruin Your Life.”

“They know what social media sites the kids use, and they’re on those, too, and they’re very good at what they do,” Wood said.

According to the FBI, 70 percent of kids accept friend requests from strangers.

Online safety website PureSight found 20 percent of teens say they’ve received unwanted sexual advances online.

Wood said there are tests parents can do to find out who their kids are talking to on the web.

“Almost always [the predator] will pose as someone who is maybe a couple of years older than the child or around the child’s age,” Wood said.

Wood said possible predators may be posing as friends if:

  1. They refuse to have Skype/telephone conversations.
  2. Other friends don’t comment on their page.
  3. They don’t post regular photos of themselves.
  4. They refuse to send a real-time photo.

The Allen family from Pasadena already closely monitors their young kids online.

“I’d hate to have to snoop, but I will,” father Ethan Allen said.

Ages 10 and 7, Jessica and Ethan mainly watch videos and play games on their tablets, but their parents know social networking sites are next.

“It’s scary, but we talk about it. She knows what we believe is inappropriate,” mother Jhertaune Huntley said.

Wood said keeping kids safe starts with open communication and honesty.

“You want that level of trust to be open, so letting them know, ‘I’m trying to protect you,’” Wood said.

Wood recommends:

  1. Friend-ing your children on all their accounts.
  2. Knowing your child’s account passwords.
  3. Placing a tracking software on their device.

Wood also said parents must watch what they post because they could unknowingly give predators access to their children.

“Photographs, a pattern of life or other things that a predator can easily piece together to then target that child,” Wood said.

Wood recommends:

  1. Not posting naked or partially-clothed photos of your child.
  2. Not posting personal information about your kids.
  3. Removing location tracking data on photos.

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