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Chris Hansen On How To Keep Your Kids Safe From Online Predators
Chris Hansen, whose "Dateline" series "To Catch A Predator" remains iconic nearly 20 years after its premiere, talked to CrimeCon 2022 attendees about his new projects and how to stay safe in an evolving online world.
"If you had asked me in 2004, when we did the first 'Predator' investigation, would I still be here in 2022 doing 'Predator' investigations," investigative journalist Chris Hansen admitted to CrimeCon 2022 attendees, "I would not have believed the answer."
Hansen, of course, was one of the original true crime journalists, premiering the investigative series with which he's since become synonymous, "To Catch A Predator," on NBC News' "Dateline" nearly 20 year ago.
"I’ve been doing this for 40 years," Hansen said. "The work I do is edgy, it’s a little bit dangerous, it’s a little bit out there. Sometimes we’re inventing it as we go along, as with 'Predator.'"
He explained how the idea of the series has evolved from its early days on dateline to its current incarnation, the YouTube show "Have A Seat With Chris Hansen," and his next project, "Takedown With Chris Hansen," which will premiere on a new true crime streaming network, TruBlu, that he's launching later this year.
Hansen said the major difference between his early series and the later incarnations is that they now work directly with law enforcement decoys, instead of an outside organization, and they always have law enforcement there.
"The Perverted Justice cases were very often successful," Hansen said of the outside organization with whom the show used to partner. "But it is easier when law enforcement uses their own decoys."
Hansen also shared tips on staying safe in the digital age. He noted that one study showed inappropriate contact with children initiated by adults was up 900 percent during the pandemic, and advised parents that they're not going to be able to cut their kids off from the possibility.
Instead, he said, parents need to educate themselves and their kids about how predators operate now.
"Your kids are out there. You’re out there," Hansen said. "And no one’s going to protect you like you can protect yourself and your kids."
"These guys are so adept at grooming and gaining the trust of a child and pushing the boundaries," he added. "Then, the child doesn’t look at the person as a stranger anymore."
Among his suggestions are that parents talk to their teens and explain that many of these predators are not the age or gender they pretend to be online — suggesting one mom tell her 15-year-old son that the supposedly cute girl sending him racy pictures and asking for some of him is most likely a 52-year-old man in his mother's basement — and to emphasize one thing.
"The key is to make sure they don’t give out information," he said.
CrimeCon 2022 is produced by Red Seat Ventures and presented by Oxygen.