GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Chief Warrant Officer Rik Stevens has spent more than a decade working for the Guilford County Sheriff's Office.
Countless times he’s had the tough conversation with parents about their children and the internet.
“The world is their oyster in terms of where people are on social media,” he said. “It's important for every parent to be plugged in.”
Stevens says a big clue that your child may be linked to online crimes is when parents start noticing behavioral and physical changes in them.
That's when parents should call for help.
“It may not even be that the child is missing, but, hey, we've had a behavioral change. Our patrol officers will get called out. Our school resource officers will a lot of time get involved in those kind of things,” Stevens said.
He says sometimes changes in teens just come with age.
“But at the same time those kind of sudden shifts can really show parents, hey, maybe there's something going on that I need to start asking questions about,” said Stevens.
The sheriff’s office is seeing a spike in crimes where children are connecting with people in other cities and states and then arranging meet-ups.
“Be leery of people that seem like they are something, but may be something else,” Stevens said.
Investigators must stay on top of the trends and they are using innovative technology to bust criminals.
However, the best way to put an end to these crimes is for children to also be aware.
“Kids should know who they are interacting with. I encourage kids to make friends online that they know in person. That way there's a clear understanding of who's who,” Stevens said.
He says a useful tool for parents is using a tracking device on your children's phones. He says if you do have concerns your best bet is to reach out to law enforcement.