CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ ) -- The internet. So many ways to strike up a conversation; so many different paths to a dangerous connection. So many children -- easily at risk.
"One in five children will be solicited on the internet for sex before they turn 18," according to Sgt. Chris Casto of the West Virginia State Police.
The fastest route for offenders to find kids is through online chats.
They're available 24-7 in the palm of children's hands.
"Parents are now giving their kids smartphones... so they have the internet all the time," Casto says. "So it's very easy for them to get in that situation."
It doesn't take weeks or months to get caugh in the web, instead it takes only seconds.
There are hundreds of chat rooms that claim they're free and safe for children and teens. However when we logged on, we were quick to learn, that they're a haven for sexual predators. Grown adults who are sitting, watching and waiting to lure in kids.
WSAZ.com went into a so-called "safe" teen chat area. It was filled with pornography along with invites calling for sexual fetish fantasies to be played out and links to x-rated websites.
We created a fake profile and posed as a girl with the screen name "cheergirl13". It took less than 30 seconds for someone claiming to be a grown man to ask us into a private chat room.
He said he was 25-years-old and immediately asked if we wanted to play and have fun. He wanted to see cheerleading uniform pics and the conversation, very quickly, took a sexual turn.
Keep in mind, this is all directed toward a girl that he thinks is only 13-years-old.
Police have words of warning for parents. When it comes to keeping kids safe online -- privacy is not sacred. They say to be aware and be on guard.
"Keep the computer that they access on a daily basis in a common area of the home, so they cant be behind closed doors in the bedroom surfing the internet," said Sgt. Casto.
We quickly learned that what goes on behind closed doors, on both ends of the connection, can easily lead to a worse case scenario and a world of hurt.
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