ST. GEORGE — Police are encouraging parents to monitor their children’s phone activity Monday following the Sunday arrest of a 22-year-old St. George man who allegedly sexually assaulted a 14-year-old whom he met via a popular texting application.
Don Louis Wakefield was arrested and booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility on a third-degree felony charge of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, two third-degree felony counts of distributing pornographic material, along with a class A misdemeanor for sexual abuse of a minor.
Wakefield met and communicated with the 14-year-old alleged victim through a popular phone texting app, according to a media statement issued by the St. George Police Department Monday.
“After gaining her trust, the victim agreed to meet him at a location in St. George,” the Police Department said. “It was at this meeting that Mr. Wakefield allegedly sexually assaulted the victim.”
Following Wakefield’s arrest Sunday, the Police Department continues to urge parents to monitor their children’s phone activity and offered a link to a website with helpful information on what to look for and ways to help your children stay safe.
Cellphones have evolved from simple communication devices to mobile, miniature computers according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. However, cellphones can be more difficult to monitor than a computer and children often use them without adult supervision.
The website encourages parents to review their family’s Internet safety rules with their children and become aware of the following risks before allowing them to own cellphones:
Making cyberbullying more painful
Cellphones can be used anywhere at any time, giving cyberbullies unlimited access to their victims, according to the site. While cellphones make it easy for children to communicate with their friends, it also makes them vulnerable to cyberbullying, as they may send and receive mean-spirited phone calls, texts and pictures at any hour.
Playing a role in grooming
Predators may ask children for their cellphone numbers after meeting them online or try to connect with willing children by sending texts to random numbers, according to the website. Other predators may send children cellphones and ask them to keep the phones a secret, allowing them to talk to and exchange text messages and pictures with children without close monitoring by parents and guardians.
Sexting made easy
“Sexting” is a term used to describe the sending of sexually explicit text messages or pictures of minors by minors.
“What most young people do not realize is that the production, possession and distribution of explicit photos of minors, even if they are self-produced, may be illegal,” according to the site. “Furthermore, if these explicit photos end up on the Internet, children may be taunted by their peers and jeopardize scholastic, athletic and employment opportunities.”
Unintentional sharing of geolocation data
GPS technology on smartphones allows the precise location of the user to be pinpointed by websites and apps.
Social networking sites such as FourSquare, GoWalla and Facebook take advantage of this technology by encouraging their users to “check-in” or share their locations. Because a “check-in” can be shared with a list of friends, the website encourages parents to make sure they know who is on their child’s friends list before allowing them to use this type of technology.
“Children also may share their locations unintentionally through pictures taken with their smartphones; these photos often have geolocation data embedded in them,” according to the site. “Consider disabling the location services on smartphones before allowing children to post photos online.”
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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