LAKE COUNTY, IL — Authorities in Lake County are urging parents to keep a close eye on their children’s online activity following the arrest of a sexual predator accused of grooming children. The tips and advice from police comes as more people, including children, are interacting online amid the pandemic and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office is seeing an uptick in reports from concerned parents.
“Some of these reported incidents involve adults who attempt to meet the child, attempt to solicit nude photos from the child, and in many cases, a parent identified what was occurring before it got to a more serious point,” Lt. Christopher Covelli, a public information officer for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, told Patch.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office recently arrested Steven S. Tipman, 31, of the 39400 block of North Oak Avenue in Antioch Township, who is accused of sending nude photos of himself to online acquaintances he thought were children. The acquaintances were actually undercover detectives posing as 12-year-old girls.
Tipman, a registered sexual predator, is now being held on a $500,000 bond at the Lake County Jail. He faces grooming and unlawful contact with a child by a child sex offender charges. He also faces a charge for failing to register his social media accounts, which is a requirement for sexual predators in Illinois.
More charges are expected after electronics and computers seized during a March search of Tipman’s house are fully analyzed, police said Wednesday.
Tipman was convicted in 2011 in McHenry County for possession of child pornography/films/photos, according to online court records. Tipman was 20 years old at the time and his victim was 10 years old, according to the Illinois Sex Offender registry.
Concerned Parents, Uptick In Kids’ Online Activity
During the pandemic, children have been using more technology. With that uptick in online activity as well as an increase in online applications offering chat options, including games, parents are urged to check applications for any inappropriate conversations or suspicious activity, said Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg.
Idleburg offers another tip: charge electronics somewhere other than in a child’s bedroom overnight.
“Throughout this pandemic, children have been utilizing technology more than ever before. While there are great benefits to technology, it is important to remember child predators often lurk in the shadows of the internet, Remember to check the content inside of applications used by your children and I recommend that electronics should always be charged overnight somewhere other than your child’s bedroom,” Idleburg said.
The applications undercover detectives used to communicate with Tipman included Snapchat; Meet24, an online dating service; and OKCupid, which is an online dating site. Lake County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Christopher Covelli, TITLE, said online gaming, which now includes chat options available for those playing each other, has opened another door for predators to talk with children.
He said there’s been an uptick in reports by parents of unknown people trying to talk with their kids online. He urges parents to talk to advise children not to accept a “friend request” on gaming or social media platforms from someone who they do not know personally.
“Parents should also frequently monitor what their children are doing online and who they are communicating with,” he said.
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