LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Text messages have led East Texas authorities to three incidents within the past week involving sexual activity with minors.
"They're so vulnerable to so much," said Dr. Debra Burton, a licensed Lufkin counselor.
"I don't want to talk" was the only thing Jose Barron had to say before accepting a 25-year sentence for having a continuous sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl. He called her his girlfriend. Their relationship was documented with text messages found by the victim's mother.
Burton said that rises in technology and social media use might be the factors making young children susceptible to predators.
"There are so many chat sites, dating sites; even Facebook now has something called Tinder," Burton said. "It gives geographical information."
Last week, Trinity Police arrested 31-year-old Fernando Miranda after text messages revealed a possible relationship between him and a 15-year- old girl.
"When parents are educated about the dangers, they can very carefully talk to their kids and review all the dangers and precautions about texting and the Internet," Burton said.
She said parents should always have access to kids' passwords.
"I know kids might feel like parents are spying on them at times," Burton said.
Random checks are necessary to confirm that inappropriate relationships don't form between adults and minors.
Monday, the Angelina Sheriff's Department arrested Sean Wood for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl. He's 25. Again, the relationship was documented by text.
"When that face-to-face encounter occurs, even if they're older, they already have feelings at that point," Burton said.
She said she believes this is a way young children become connected with predators.
She says isolating, few friends, struggling, and acting out, are signs that things aren't right. Restricting after-hours phone use and downloading monitoring apps are helpful, but importantly parents have to get them to see that it's their job to protect them from others and from themselves."