BILLINGS, Mt. - The Montana Department of Justice announces in the first six months of this year the state’s cyber tips related to internet crimes against children rose by nearly seventy percent compared to the same period last year.

With children at home more since the start of the pandemic Attorney General Tim Fox says kids are active more than ever on social networking and gaming sites but do parents really know who they’re interacting with?

Attorney General Tim Fox says they've received over 400 cyber tips within the first six months of 2020. The cyber tips are software-detected images and videos of child explicit material with known IP addresses. An IP address is a label used to identify and locate devices like a computer or laptop on an internet network similar to a physical address.

“A seventy percent increase from last year perhaps is a alarming obviously that there are apparently many folks out there that are trying to exploit children in particular," says Fox.

Fox says the popular site predators often lurk are Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram but email and text messages are also common forms of communication predators often use.

“Those are all avenues that we see these criminals try to exploit our children and it’s a reality of the age we’re in with the technology that we have.”

While many of the social networking providers do offer some security while your child is online Fox says, “The best defense is certainly educating your children and secondly being vigilant as a parent or guardian and teacher.”

Montana’s Digital Crimes Investigation Bureau Chief Gary Seder says the first rule is to periodically check your child’s social media accounts, predators often meet children in group chats. Secondly parents should remain in good rapport with their children so they feel comfortable to disclose anything unsettling they may encounter online.

“Many of American children are exploited by being led into human trafficking by very seasoned criminals that know how to groom folks first over the internet and then ultimately trying to get them to meet in person," says Fox.

The Attorney General, local law enforcement, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to decrease the number of online child exploitation reports in Montana.

If you'd like to report a child exploitation incident, you can contact Agent Gary Seder at 406-444-9759.

For more additional digital resources on online safety, click here.

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