Phone apps can expose kids to dangerous strangers - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Phone apps can expose kids to dangerous strangers

There's an app for everything and some teens are using them to connect to a world of would be pedophiles and sexual predators. There's an app for everything and some teens are using them to connect to a world of would be pedophiles and sexual predators.

(WMC-TV) – There's an app for everything and some teens are using them to connect to a world of would be pedophiles and sexual predators.

Sierra Leanhart, 14, was curious to see where her iPod Touch could take her and it took her somewhere scary.

Sierra's mom describes the world of stranger chat apps. They let you chat with strangers from anywhere using your Wi-Fi enabled iPod or iPhone.

Those chats can quickly turn personal with strangers even asking for nude photos.

Sierra downloaded two different stranger chat apps popular with her eighth grade friends - ChatHoo and iMeetzu.

"Every time I play it back, I drag her out of her room and I talk to her again about it," said Sierra's dad Eric Leanhart.

Sierra's dad is talking about a message left on her cell phone from a guy she met through a stranger chat named Ricky who lived in Texas.

He said he was only 13, but her parents say he sounded more like he was in his 20's.

Sierra's parents grounded her and tried to explain how sexual predators troll for victims by lying about their age and intentions.

Fortunately, experts say it's pretty easy to stop the potentially dangerous stranger chats. You just have to get busy blocking them.

Chris Watson, a computer technician at Mac Authority, knows exactly how to block certain apps on kids' phones.

From your home screen, click on the settings icon and then select "general." Scroll down and tap on "restrictions" and then enable "restrictions."

At that point you'll be asked to enter a four digit restrictions pass code.

That way a teen can't mess with the restrictions you put on the device.

Once you've set up that passcode, scroll down to "allow content" and tap "apps."

"Apple has enforced that all apps have to have an age limit on them," said Watson.

That means you can disallow apps in four different ratings categories.

You can even set the device not to download any apps, a block that can easily be lifted with a few taps and that secret pass code.

Aaron Mannenbach, developer of the iMeetzu app, said in an email he regretted what happened to Sierra.

"This is not the type of activity we condone or promote," he said. "We've actually had our own concerns about this sort of thing potentially occurring and had been recently working on making the site only accessible to those who are 18 and older."

The app is designed for users 17 and older, but that didn't stop at least one curious 14-year-old.

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