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Missing teen sparks internet safety discussion

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LONE PEAK, Utah County— News of a missing Utah County teen has child advocacy groups reiterating to parents how crucial it is to keep kids safe from predators online.

Indica Huddleston, 16, left a note on Aug. 15 stating she was running away. Her mother, Andrea Huddleston, said her daughter had been hanging out with some unsavory characters online who she believes lured her away from home.

A Lone Peak detective working on the case said that note and other evidence indicates Indica is a runaway, and not in imminent danger. They are following up on leads, and trying to find her.

"I didn't know that she was talking to the kind of people that she was talking to," Huddleston said. "I should've done a better job of monitoring that."

Eighty percent of parents said they don't know what their children are doing online, and 72 percent said they don't even know how to figure out what their kids are actually doing online, said Evelyn Call of the Utah Child Protection Registry.

Online predators will target kids for sex or drug trafficking and they can tell who are the most vulnerable, Call said.

Statistics from the Journal of Adolescent Health
• In 82 perfect of cases, predators used social media to find out a victim's "likes" and "dislikes"

• 65 percent of online sex offenders found out home and school information

• 25 percent of predators were able to find out the victim's whereabouts at a specific time

"They're looking for children who are maybe having family conflict, who don't have good relationships with their parents, also girls who are looking for attention or children who are looking for attention that they're not getting," Call said.

National statistics show internet predators will use social networking sites to lure kids into dangerous situations, particularly sex crimes. According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, in 82 percent of cases predators used social media to find out a victim's likes and dislikes.

Home and school information was able to be found out by online sex offenders 65 percent of the time, and 25 percent of predators were also able to find out the victim's whereabouts at a specific time.

"Anyone who is asking for personal information or is trying to get them away from their loved ones in any capacity, they have very bad intentions," Call said.

The best way to protect kids is to just talk to them, Call said.


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