The parents of a 14-year-old girl in the Georgia city of Covington contacted police in May after they found messages from Porter on their daughter’s phone.
Covington police Capt. Ken Malcom told WSB-TV: “They had discovered some very disturbing material being exchanged between their child and what we later learned to be a 37-year-old man pretending to be a teenager himself.”
The accused used Discord, the popular communication app for gamers, as well as programs called Sketch and My Pet to contact children, according to police.
Malcom said Porter was “asking for photos, sending photos, very lewd comments, horrific language he used with a child. Very sick conversations.”
The authorities linked the messages to Porter, and tracked him down to a motel in Punta Gorda, a city in Charlotte County, on Florida’s west coast. Malcolm said his team had worked with officials in Ontario, Canada who had “potential charges” against Porter.
Malcolm urged parents to keep an eye on what their children are doing online. “We just have to be vigilant watching over our children, especially if they’re involved in any type of internet communications with anyone. You never know if that person they’re communicating with is a sexual predator,” he said.
Children’s charity the NSPCC advises parents who are worried their child is sharing inappropriate images online to talk to them about the content, and ask if they’d be happy for someone like a grandparent or someone they admire to see it.
In order to keep kids safe online more generally, the charity says parents should talk to their children “openly, and regularly” about the topic. That can include asking which sites and apps they use, and looking at them together.
“Be positive about what you see, but also be open about concerns you have: ‘I think this site’s really good’ or ‘I’m a little worried about things I’ve seen here’,” the charity states on its website, adding that parents should come up with a list of sites you both agree are appropriate, and agree on a time to next discuss it.
Parents should also ask their children about things they might see online which make them feel uncomfortable and why, such as people or animals being hurt, people being nasty to each other, and make it clear they are there to protect them, online and off. Children can be also instructed on how to use apps which can block sites. To protect their privacy, kids should be taught how to keep their personal information safe.
The charity goes on to advise adults to reassure kids they won’t overreact if they are behaving inappropriately, but rather “you’re just looking out for them.”
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