The FBI is warning parents about dangers of smartphone apps their children may be using.

Over the last few months, Action News Jax has reported on several local cases in which suspects were tracked down through messaging apps popular with kids.

Action News Jax Reporter Brittney Donovan spoke with an FBI agent who says parents often have no idea what kind of apps their children are using.

“We’ve worked cases where children have been taken based on poor habits with a smartphone,” Agent Macdonald said. “Children have had illicit pictures and video taken of them and those images and videos distributed across the world.”

Macdonald – who asked we conceal his identity — works on some of the most horrendous child sex cases in our area. 

He said many parents don’t understand the capabilities of the smartphones they give their children.

“That smartphone has a camera, it has the ability to broadcast a child’s location,” he said. “It has the ability for a stranger to gain entry into your child’s bedroom via video chat, texting, taking still pictures.”

Macdonald says there have been several local “sextortion” cases. He said a predator gets a hold of illicit images of a child or teen, then blackmails them for more.

“The perpetrator can threaten to publish or broadcast the illicit images they already have of the victim if they don’t send more,” he said. “The perpetrator can threaten to tell the child’s parents, things like that.”

Lucas Chansler, a 30-year-old who was living in Jacksonville, was sentenced to 105 years in prison for producing child pornography in 2014.

The FBI says he sexually extorted up to 350 victims during a four-year period. The FBI is still seeking additional victims.

He said the turmoil from some cases of sextortion has been so great that children have tried to take their own lives.

The FBI is inviting Duval County parents to four sessions during which agents will reveal the latest technology and apps offenders are using.

The sessions are being held at Duval County schools.

Agent Macdonald said the end goal is keeping children safe from predators.

“Education prevents children from being victimized and the more people we can educate on this the fewer child victims we’ll have,” he said.

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