Do you have old smartphones? Recycle them in the car to prevent cybercrimes against children

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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) – If you currently have old smartphones or tablets in your house, you’ll probably want to pick them up right away.

Children’s advocates are teaming up with law enforcement to recover these old handheld devices on Wednesday and Thursday, February 23 and 24.

They do this because they see more and more children being victimized online when secretly using these old devices.

One mother’s experience of seeing this happen right in front of her has launched a new effort to prevent more victims.

“I’m only mentioning my story because it caught me off guard,” says Tana Koss, vice president of family services in Green Bay.

Koss has dedicated more than a decade of his life to working with child victims of crime.

She has always considered herself to be very cautious and alert.

That was until an incident several years ago with her adopted son.

“He started acting very tired and irritable, so we paid close attention to what was going on and found he was using an iPod that a friend had given him,” says Koss.

“It was actually a broken iPod. You could barely see through the screen. But it was still able to connect to Wi-Fi and download an app, opening the door for unguarded access to whoever it wanted to.

“I don’t blame the mother or the father of the friend who gave the iPod to our adopted son, because at that time I had three or four devices in my own drawer,” says Koss.

She got rid of it and wants the other parents to do the same.

“We’ll recycle your handheld devices for free,” says Holli Fisher, program manager at the Sexual Assault Center in Green Bay.

Family Services and Law Enforcement is holding a recycling collection at multiple locations February 23 and 24, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., to make it easy for parents to dispose of these old devices (see list collection sites at the end of this article).

“That’s all they have to do is turn on their old phone or tablet, connect to Wi-Fi and they’re back in the game,” says Sgt. Tracy Holschbach, a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force at the Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

“We have seen an increase in the number of children being exploited online, so that they are accessing devices with or without their parents knowing about it,” says Fisher. “Often parents don’t know it’s happening until law enforcement intervenes.”

“Children are children. They don’t understand it. They don’t have the mental capacity or the maturity to understand how dangerous technology is,” says Holschbach, adding that technology can also be positive.

But as an ICAC investigator, Holscbach deals with the dark side of internet activity.

Right now, his team is overwhelmed with investigating cybercrimes targeting children.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking, to be honest,” says Holschbach. “I don’t think the average person understands what these predators are doing.”

She says cyber counseling at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children increased by 97.5% between 2019 and 2020, when the pandemic began, and the situation is only getting worse.

“I feel like some of this, a lot of it, unfortunately, is preventable,” Holschbach says.

They all hope that this recycling campaign is part of the solution.

“I want these old devices out so you don’t have to worry about them,” adds Koss.

About the reader:

Protect the Kids: Smartphone and Tablet Recycling Campaign

February 23 and 24, 2022

Collection hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Drop off your devices at one of these locations:

Family Services, 300 Crooks Street, Green Bay

Ashwaubenon Public Safety, 2155 Holmgren Way, Ashwaubenon

Brown County Sheriff’s Office, 2684 Development Dr., Bellevue

Pulaski Police Department, 585 E. Glenbrook Dr., Pulaski

Copyright 2022 WBAY. All rights reserved.

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