Urgent parent warning over ‘dangerous’ app amid fears kids 'exploited' as ‘predators pose as kids to groom victims’

PARENTS have been warned about a dangerous app amid fears kids could be exploited.

Police Scotland has launched an investigation after a child in Wishaw was allegedly groomed on a gaming app called Zepeto.

It is a social media app created in Korea that enables users to create a 3D animated version of themselves (called Zepeto)- which means "predators" could potentially pose as kids in order to groom their victims.

Cops said they are making enquiries into "an incident of online exploitation" and urged parents to be aware of the dangers of social media apps, the Daily Record reported.

Michael Steenson, Police Constable of Preventions and Interventions at the force, said: “We are currently carrying out enquiries into an incident of online exploitation using an app known as Zepeto, which involved a child from the Wishaw area recently.

“Social media is now an important part of many people’s lives but we need to keep children safe when online.

“Prevention is key and I would like to remind parents to be in control of what apps and content your child is viewing.

“We remain committed to tackling child online exploitation and anyone with any concerns should contact Police Scotland on 101.”

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Zepeto is a gaming and social media app where players can chat with each other and complete quests as well as share pictures and videos of their Zepetos on social media.

A description of the app reads: “In a space without limits, another me in another universe.

“Create who you want to be, and meet friends across the world. Go on exciting adventures and bring your ideas to life.

“Make friends, take photos and complete missions – choose from more than a thousand worlds to explore.”

Eight ways to protect your children online

  • Set parental controls

Revisit parental controls and privacy settings which are useful tools to help minimise the risks your children may face.

For example, the SafeSearch Filters feature on Google will block sites with explicit sexual material.

But these filters are not 100 per cent effective, they can minimise the risk.

  • T-shirt test

Kids may not be aware how public the internet is, and once information it out there, it may not be possible to remove it.

Use the "T-shirt test" if you’re worried about them over sharing online.

Ask your child to remember: “Would you wear it on your T-shirt? Then don’t post it online.”

  • Find out what apps they use

Subtly find out what apps your children use by asking them in conversation. Do this regularly, as trending apps change.

Then get familiar with the platforms yourself. This way you can spot any potential ways your child can come into harm through these apps.

You can also make sure they know how to use the app to block someone, report inappropriate posts and use privacy settings.

  • Tell them to turn of location

Many apps ask for permission to use your location and if you agree, it can stay on in the background constantly.

For example Snapchat has a feature which allows people to see others on a map. Other apps allow a person to add a location, for example you can tag your whereabouts on an Instagram photo.

  • Know your child's friends

Monitor your children's posts online to see who interacts with them. If you spot someone out of the ordinary, you can ask your child who they are.

Children can be naïve about who they are chatting with and often this can be done in private messaging, so it's important to keep an eye and ear out.

  • Educate on what's "fake"

Make sure your child is aware of fake news and how to spot it. It may also be useful to have a conversation about how celebrities and influencers often post images that are photoshopped.

Research has previously warned of the harms youngsters face by constantly viewing unrealistic body shapes.

  • Teach critical thinking

It sounds complicated, but Internet Matters advises you to teach your child critical thinking.

This may be explaining to them how internet advertising works, by pushing products online in creative ways.

For example they may not know their favourite influencers are praising a product because they have been paid to do so.

  • Set screen time limits

Teens who spend three or more hours a day on social media are doubling their risk of mental health problems, research suggests.

And children fail to get enough nightime if they are glued to their phones, which may impact their peformance in school.

Set screen time limits for your kids even if they are resistant.

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