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Mesa detective teaching parents preventative action against online predators

Posted at 9:49 PM, Jul 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-17 10:19:31-04

A Mesa police detective who has been on the front lines of the battle against child predators is taking all of his knowledge out into the community and arming parents with prevention knowledge.

This knowledge aims to arm parents with the "tricks of the trade" online predators use to lure children into dangerous parts of the online web. 

Scott Pietrzak, the founder of Online Safety Specialists, has been offering classes to parents who want to learn how to keep their families safe. 

Everything from sexting, to sextortion, cyber-bullying, current chat lingo used by predators, and how online gaming is the newest tool these dangerous men and women are using to lure your child are covered in the class.

Pietrzak said he was approached by a community member and business owner of the Hub Fitness to use their space and offer these classes to the public.

"We were pretty blown away by how much the parents didn't know," said Pietrzak.

The biggest surprise for many parents who took the class got was learning about the number of chat rooms that are out there, not just on your child's computer but their smartphones and gaming systems.

"There are thousands; I mean thousands of them. Your child knows they can go into these chat rooms and talk to a stranger. What they don't understand when they're talking to these strangers is that they're actually being groomed," said Pietrzak. 

After playing the role of a child, and chatting up many predators online, Pietrzak had first-hand knowledge about the tactics these predators are using.

"They will be building your child up, if they have low self-esteem. They'll agree with everything they say. If they say they're having problems with their parents, they'll agree with you and tell you're right. The kids think they're talking to someone their own age," said Pietrzak.

What fueled the passion to share this knowledge, was the realities of the job he was doing. Pietrzak was a father, in addition to being a detective.

"That is one less person that I know is going to prey on my kids, my friend's kids," said Pietrzak.

A popular topic of discussion in his classes was the current lingo used in texts and chatrooms. 

"You have the number "99".  Basically, that is saying parents are around. If you see "LMIRL" that is "let's meet in real life." If you see "GNOC" you should be asking your kids questions because that is "get naked on camera," said Pietrzak.

Some of the top chatrooms that are popular today included Kik, Whisper, YouChat, and LiveMe. Others on your desktop were Omegle and ChatRoulette.

Chrisa Florio was a mother who had taken one of Pietrzak's seminars. She took her teenage son with her.

Florio said while she wanted to give her child freedom, she had set social media and online boundaries in place.

"He is not allowed to have SnapChat. He does have Instagram. I monitor his history online, I will take his phone randomly and go through his text messages, his Instagram," said Florio.

She said after the classes she had tightened up some of the rules.

"I have a list of all of his passwords, they are absolutely not allowed to change," she added.

A big awakening for Florio after the class was when her son opened up to her and told her there had been two separate occasions in which he had been approached by strangers online, who asked him to go into another chatroom where they could have a live conversation.

"Luckily he did the right thing. He shut down the conversation, but I have goosebumps now actually because he didn't tell me about it at the time," said Florio.

Online Safety Specialists has a class coming up on August 12th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Hub Fitness. The address is 4425 E. Agave Road, Suite 100, Phoenix.

The seminar is open to parents and students from junior high school and above. Advance tickets cost $8 a person. Pietrzak said they are offering a reduced price as a "back to school" special. 

To learn more about the classes, click here.

To learn more about current chat lingo that is being used you can click on the Resources section of the website.