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According to the newspaper, the social networking app Skout was originally pegged at grown-ups -- connecting strangers who were near each other. A similar service with more protection was created for kids ages 13 to 17, the Times adds, but the company's safeguards apparently weren't safe enough, and it has now temporarily suspended the app for minors while it works to improve safety measures.
"I'm disgusted by what's happened here," Skout founder Christian Wiklund tells the newspaper. "One case is too many. When you have three, it looks like a pattern. This is my worst fear."
The three cases include a 37-year-old man accused of raping an Ohio girl who is 15; a 24-year-old man charged with counts including sex with a minor, child molestation and using a child for pornography involving a 12-year-old girl in California; and a 21-year-old man charged with second-degree sexual assault after being found engaged in a sexual act with a boy who is 13 in Wisconsin, according to the newspaper.
"We're seeing more of these cases," Lt. Craig Carter of the Escondido Police Department in California tells the newspaper. "Parents need to be aware that their kids could be on these websites. In this case, if her parents had taken her phone and looked at her messages on Skout, they would have immediately seen inappropriate responses for someone that is 12 years old."
Here are five other measures from Common Sense Media that parents can take when it comes to keeping kids safe in the digital age.
Privacy, please: If your child is using location services on apps, make sure he or she uses the strictest privacy settings so strangers won't be able to identify where she's hanging out.
Warning call: It may sound simple, but alerting your kids to dangers that exist in the online and digital world can be a first line of defense against would-be abusers and predators.
Talk about it: Don't be afraid to set rules when it comes to the content your children post. No suggestive photos, nothing that might cause shame in the future, nothing mean. If they'll die of embarrassment if you see it, they shouldn't post it.
Report card: Kids may realize something weird is up with a certain chat or photo exchange, but they need to know they can come to you -- or another adult they trust -- to report it. Let them know how vital it is to share this information.
Be that mom: Insist on checking out an app or website before your child downloads or visits it. Will it annoy Junior? Why, yes, it will. Will it help protect him? It certainly couldn't hurt.