Counselors share tips on preventing children from talking to online predators

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Posted at 5:19 PM, Jun 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-15 11:34:29-04

A Bozeman man appeared in court Wednesday, June 14 for allegedly having sexual relations with a 13-year-old girl. Two counselor advocates share what parents can do to protect their children from online predators.

“Statistically, both for kids and adults, people are more likely to be an acquaintance or know the person who is harming them," said Program Manager at the Gallatin County Child Advocacy Center, Sage Lambert. "Like if you know someone and you feel like you can trust them, there's greater access than just a stranger on the internet, right?"

That's exactly what prosecutors say happened in the case of Tyler Hefty, who appeared in court Wednesday, June 14 facing charges of sexual intercourse without consent with a 13-year-old girl. The victim's mother reportedly contacted the police after she read her daughter's diary and found details about her sexual relationship with Hefty who according to court documents is a friend of the family.

Counselor advocates have tips for parents to prevent this from happening to their children.

“Phone monitoring software. So like you can download apps onto your child's phone that helps. You know, if a child is downloading an app, maybe that you've set a boundary around that they shouldn't have,” said Perrin Lundgren with the Sexual Assault Counseling Center.

Lambert said, “Using privacy settings on different social media apps, if that's something your kid does have access to, really making sure you know what those privacy settings are.”

Lambert says having an open conversation with your child about adult boundaries is very important.

“A lot of safety conversations start when kids are really little, right? It's like, what what do appropriate boundaries with adults look like? If you don't want to help someone, you don't have to. So just starting from a really young age is teaching kids that they can have those boundaries. And then also just building in that those concepts of like, yeah. If something feels off, you go tell an adult right," said Lambert.

Lundgren says it's good to talk to your child about the kinds of interactions they're already having with adults.

"What kinds of interactions are age-appropriate, right? If you want to be friends with a 50-year-old because they're helping you learn music or they're helping you learn something like that, that might be age-appropriate, but anything beyond that might not be,” said Lundgren.

In court Wednesday, the judge set Hefty's bond at $250,000.

If you or a loved one needs counseling services or has questions about sexual abuse, you can call 406-586-3333.

Bozeman man arrested for allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl