LEXIE TUCKER WRITES – Through the wonders of social media, communicating with loved ones (and even not-so-loved ones) is now just a few clicks away.

But with this power comes great responsibility. Through the ages, parents have warned children not to talk to strangers. But how effective is such advice to young digital natives raised on iPhones and Android apps?

According to the National Police Agency of Japan, the number of minors involved in crimes via social networking systems increased substantially last year. Nearly 1,300 children were victimized, the highest since 2008 and a 20 percent jump from 2012. It’s also the fifth year in a row that the number of victims rose above 1,000.

The data reveal that those who downloaded free communication apps, like LINE and KakaoTalk, and then posted their identification codes for the world to see, were much more likely to fall prey to cyber-criminals. The research also found that a smaller number of children had become crime victims through game and social networking websites.

Police believe that smartphone apps have helped child predators by providing an easy way to contact and approach youth.  Though users of the LINE and KakaoTalk apps don’t have to give contact information, such as phone numbers and email addresses, others can get in touch with them through user IDs that are assigned and posted online.

After being approached by police, LINE Corp. agreed to ban the use of IDs by children under 18 within their app.  KakaoTalk operators, however, have shown no signs of introducing similar restrictions. To prevent more cyber crimes involving minors, police have now started campaigns where they meet with and warn minors against offering services like compensated dating and the sale of underwear.

Although it may seem like common sense, apparently these kids have not yet learned that they shouldn’t take candy from strangers.