Police have issued a warning to parents to be vigilant of their teenagers' social media activity following the arrest of a Victorian man who allegedly used apps to groom girls from the Illawarra.
Victorian man Robert Kanen was charged with 14 Commonwealth offences relating to the alleged grooming of girls from the Illawarra and South Coast.
Lake Illawarra District Police started investigating Kanen after reports were made to police in May about a man purchasing gifts for young girls in exchange for explicit photographs.
Detectives travelled to a home in Leopold, near Geelong, and arrested the 56-year-old man last Thursday.
Police will allege that between November 2019 and May 2020, Kanen communicated with several girls, aged 13 and 14, from the Illawarra and South Coast, via social media, and requested explicit photographs.
Kanen also allegedly sent inappropriate images and videos to the girls, and travelled to Wollongong to meet two of the girls and bought them gifts. None of the girls were physically harmed.
He was refused bail in Geelong Magistrates Court on Friday and will return to court on October 2.
In a separate matter unconnected with the Kanen arrest, an Illawarra mother took to social media this week to warn parents that her 17-year-old daughter was targeted by a man not known to her.
Police visited the mother to inform her that her daughter had accepted a friend request from a man and was sent a picture. The mother said police were able to find the daughter based on her Snapchat location.
"[The man] had sent my daughter a Snap which she hadn't opened but was opened in front of the police," the mother said.
"He had only sent her a picture of half his face and his bare chest.
"To get this kind of visit made me sick to my stomach and it is so damn scary to learn how easy it is for these pieces of shit to track down young kids.
"I wish I didn't have to post this but I just wanted to warn everyone."
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Commander of the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad, Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec encouraged parents to remain vigilant and monitor their child's online usage, including what websites they were visiting, and who they may be speaking with.
"Not only should young people be very careful about providing personal information to a person they only know in an online environment, they should never organise to meet, as doing so may place them at further risk of harm," he said.
"If they encounter something or someone, they are not comfortable with, we encourage them to speak to a person they trust, who can then let our investigators know.
"With the number of online communication applications increasing, it is very important to speak to children about the dangers associated with online conversations."
Det Supt Kerlatec said if parents or children ever came across any concerning material online, they were encouraged to contact local police immediately.
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