‘Be in their business’: Family shares red flags they noticed when their teenager went missing

SPOKANE, Wash. — As more kids spend time online, predators are lurking. That’s why parents need to be even more aware of the dangers on the web to prevent more dangerous situations.

“We just don’t know how long it’s been going on and how long he’s been talking to her,” said Richard and Liz Samayoa. They’re the aunt and uncle of Lillian Dixon.

She’s only 15-years-old and was missing for days with Jonathan Bowles, a 36-year-old man who’s also a registered sex offender.

“She went to school, and that was the last I saw of her for the day,” they added.

Since then, they’ve been scouring social media, posting flyers and told police about her disappearance. These kinds of situations are happening more often as more kids spend time online.

“We’re seeing that our predators are using those same platforms to target youth and children,” said an undercover Spokane police officer with the FBI’s Child Exploitation & Human Trafficking Unit.

That’s why parents need to know what apps they use and who they talk to online. Since predators are becoming more cunning, parents have to be on high alert.

“Be in their business. Be looking at their communication. See who they’re communicating with,” the officer added.

It’s also important to let your kids know they can come to you with questions or concerns.

“Ensuring that kids know that their parent is there to support them, not get mad at them if they come with concerns and having conversations about online safety,” said Roshelle Cleland, an Advocacy Program Supervisor with Lutheran Community Services.

Parents really need to know:

  1. How much screen time they use
  2. Who they’re talking to
  3. The safety features of the apps they use

Another idea is to take your child’s phone before they go to bed. Curbing screen time when they’re alone at night is another way to prevent these dangers.

You can also watch their behavior. If you notice a change, that could be a red flag. Lillian’s family noticed she was more irritable.

“She’s been so upset lately, and they’re just like what the heck is going on? just kind of acting out” her aunt and uncle added.

On Tuesday night, police were able to find the man she was with and take him into custody. Experts hope to prevent more situations like this with more awareness around safety.

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