SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Its a never-ending battle to catch a predator, especially the ones lurking online searching for their next underage victim.
Fortunately, Louisiana ranks as the 17th safest state for kids online in the country. That's according to research from Internet Service Partners, which analyzed youth crime statistics and Cyber-bullying data to determine the state rankings.
Children under 9 spend more than two hours a day on the internet, an amount that has tripled in the last four years. That's all according to research by the non-profit tech organization Common Sense Media.
With summer right around the country, experts expect online screen time to skyrocket with kids out of school and back at home.
Louisiana's ranking is not a complete surprise to local law enforcement. That includes Detective Jared Marshall with the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office Youth Services Division.
"I do believe that part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Initiative that the Attorney General's Office has given us funding and the tools and the training to go out there and fight against this has been extremely useful," Marshall said.
Marshall is part of the I.C.A.C. Task Force, which includes members from various law enforcement agencies in Northwest Louisiana on the city, parish, state and federal levels.
He described the task force as a pro-active team approach.
"That goes out there and educates the public and, you know, responding to incidents and even trying to get our fingers in investigations a lot deeper than maybe others would," Marshall said.
Marshall said there is a subset of parents out there who he describes as willfully blind to the dangers of children using smartphones.
"And what I mean by that is they have this sense that something is going on with their child and it has to do with the cell phone. But they ignore it because the cell phone babysits the child."
Marshall explained that parents often simply don't know much, if anything, about their kids online activity.
That's why he said the single most important factor is to communicate with your child and don't be afraid to ask them direct questions about their online activity.
Marshall concluded that your child's response to those direct questions can often tell you volumes about whether or not there's anything to worry about.
He urges parents to set up boundaries with their kids' online activities. That includes putting limits on their screen time and monitoring their activity if you suspect anything is going on, especially if they begin to withdraw.