What would you do if you found out a stranger was taking photos of your children? Did you even know that people can and do such things?
Photo credit: Lori Lee Miller/ iStock/360/ Getty Images

A convicted sex offender who reportedly has a history of collecting child pornography was noticed by a concerned mom taking pictures of children. According to her account, the police say they can't arrest him because he's not technically breaking the law, but how disturbing is it to realize that sexual predators can take a photo of your child and you might not even notice it?

He's photographing your children

A Florida mom noticed a suspicious man snapping photos of children, so she took a photo of him herself. She was understandably creeped out — why would a grown man take photos of kids he didn't know if not for nefarious reasons? Turns out, he is a convicted sex offender, and while the police have said he's not breaking the law, she's taking matters into her own hands by posting his photo on Facebook and handing out flyers locally.

A problem you didn't know existed

Since the internet has bloomed in the last couple of decades, and social media sharing is a daily part of the lives of many, the subject of sharing photographs of children online is a controversial one. Some parents employ a no-holds-barred method of photo sharing, and gladly share photos of all manners, including nude photos of their kids. Other parents feel that "everything but unclothed or naked" is OK, and still others completely abstain from sharing photos or other identifying details about their kids.

You have no way of knowing if the guy hanging out at the playground looking at his phone is actually taking photos of your kids.

However, did you ever, for a minute, consider that there may be some disgusting creep snapping pics of your kids as you go shopping? Play on the beach? Frolic at a playground? As a convicted sex offender, this man legally cannot go near places that kids typically congregate (such as schools or playgrounds), but that didn't stop him from taking photos of kids — and to what end? Do we really want to know? And what about those individuals who have yet to be caught, convicted and registered? You have no way of knowing if the guy hanging out at the playground looking at his phone is actually taking photos of your kids.

Are you horrified yet? I am.

Awareness as a defense

Modern smartphones are almost seen as a necessity to many. You have instant access to information you need, you can get directions, you can contact anyone at any time — and you have a camera that is always with you. Many smartphone cameras don't enable the user to silence the shutter noise so people can't surreptitiously photograph you (or your kids) without your knowledge.

But will you hear the click of a camera in a busy shopping mall, or when you're out playing with your kids somewhere? Not necessarily. And modern technology is moving at the speed of light, and spy gear can be employed as well as more easily-recognized devices, such as Google Glass. I asked my friend Sarah Kovac, a tech-savvy mom of two, about Google Glass. She gave some great tips about what to look for if you see someone wearing it, because even though it doesn't make a traditional "click" like a camera, there are other clues to look for. "Other people can see a light on in the display," she explains. "The only ways to take a picture are to speak, push a button on the frame or wink."

Don't treat everyone like they're a sexual predator, but being more aware of your surroundings is vital.

More on kids and safety

Virtual child snagged 1,000 pedophiles: What about your child?
Online safety for tweens and teens
Are you too tech-savvy for your child's safety?

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