Parents the best defense against online predators

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GRAYSON COUNTY, Tex. (KXII) -- The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas Joe Brown says at any given time, 50,000 predators are on the Internet actively seeking out children.

A new initiative - Project Safe Childhood - aims to prevent that by urging parents to pay attention to what kids are doing online.

The new school year means new relationships, new technology and maybe even more time spent online, leaving kids vulnerable to predators.

"School is starting and we're seeing kids making new friends and getting involved with new organizations. They'll make online friends around this time too," said Brown.

For seven-year-old Collin, who watches videos online, even with his parents close by, he knows YouTube is a place where he can't always control what he's watching.

"First it lets you pick what you really want first but then it picks for you," said Collin.

YouTube isn't the only place kids find themselves in a sticky situation.

Apps like Snapchat, that share users' locations, Whatsapp that has a worldwide reach and Tiktok that leaves kids open to explicit content and cyberbullying are just a few.

"There are dangers out there that you may not be aware of and so we want kids to be aware of it and we want parents to be asking about it and staying on top of what is happening with their kids," said Brown.

Collin's parents keep a close eye on his internet use but it hasn't stopped him from seeing things that have kept him up at night.

"It was the first scary movie I've ever watched. The first one that was the scariest," said Collin.

And it could have been a lot worse.

The U.S. Department of Justice says one in five children per year receives an unwanted sexual solicitation online and one in 33 receives an aggressive sexual solicitation.

Brown says all of it can be prevented.

"Know what your kids are doing online be involved look for signs of changes of behavior look for strange Internet histories ask questions be their parent and not their friend," said Brown.

For Collin, like most kids, the threat won't stop him from doing what he loves.