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teenagers on cell phones

May 20, 2020 – During the continued COVID-19 stay-at-home period, Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. is calling on parents to be extra vigilant about their child’s online and mobile activity on social apps like TikTok and Instagram. Because of their added time online with schools closed, children, especially their tweens and teens, may be at increased risk of cyber bullying, sexual exploitation, scams and other forms of digital abuse.


In recent weeks, DA’s Cybercrime Bureau and criminal investigators have been made aware of a number of incidents in our area where young people have posted content or entered into online relationships that are sexual in nature via social media platforms including TikTok, Instagram and the gaming chat app, Discord. Others have been flagged for taking part in online scams and the dissemination of hate messaging. The FBI has reported an uptick in reported incidents.

While our investigations continue, DA Scarpino is alerting parents and caregivers: “During the COVID crisis, with schools closed and classrooms moved online, everyone has accepted our children now have more internet time than ever–both for education and recreation. It’s easy for kids to put themselves in vulnerable positions with improper online interactions and it’s up to parents to help keep them safe.”

DA Scarpino added, “We are calling on parents to actively supervise and monitor their children’s usage and become familiar with popular apps, such as TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, interactive gaming platforms and chat rooms.”

Parents can learn more about how to protect their children from potential online exploitation or bullying at Netsmartz.org, a service of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) or the Department of Justice.

Specific tips include:

  • Set limits on online usage
  • Create mobile curfews: Turn off phones at night and store them with your phone
  • Set parental controls where possible
  • Know your child’s passwords
  • Remind young children especially: Don’t “talk” to strangers. Explain that people online can make up identities and may take advantage of them
  • Block and report users who make them feel uncomfortable

If you believe your child is a victim of an illegal online interaction, notify your local police or the DA’s Cybercrime Bureau by filing a complaint.

Join us as we promote #StaySafeOnline #WestchesterSafe