LAS VEGAS - When Detective Chris Holman of Henderson Police Department's Computer Crimes Unit started investigating online predators four years ago, he discovered an alarming trend: children are putting themselves in danger by engaging in risky behaviors online and on their cell phones.
"One of the things I started noticing, more and more of our children are doing this type of stuff really to themselves," he said.
Many of them are sexting - taking slightly nude or completely nude photos of themselves - and sending them to a boyfriend or girlfriend. Detective Holman says the images rarely remain confidential.
"Eighty percent of all new child pornography, all the stuff I get to see every single day and try to stop is being produced by our own kids," he said. "It affects us all. There's just not enough education on the subject. Those people who know the subject need to pay it forward and share that information with others."
Holman spent three years creating the SM@RT Connections program which enables community leaders to help educate parents and kids through schools, churches and philanthropic organizations. SM@RT Connections was chosen by the Leadership Henderson Class of 2014.
"He's teaching children to be smart and parents to be smarter," said Holman's colleague Caprice Thurlow.
Another part of the program focuses on how online predators lure children by exploiting their vulnerabilities and gaining their trust. It all begins with finding common ground.
"They find what you like, and all of a sudden, they like it too. They test the boundaries. Isn't it strange you have so much in common with them?" Holman said. "They probably don't like any of those things, but they know you do."
Troublesome situations can occur even for children whose parents pay close attention to their online habits, so communication is crucial.
"You're the parents. They're the child. You're paying the bills, not them. You have the right to check up on your kids," Holman said.
"It's time for us to realize the connection we give our children - the cell phone we hand them so that we stay connected - is the very item that can also get them in trouble," Thurlow added.
8 News NOW is rewarding Dr. Chris Holman's efforts, awarding him $800 as part of its weekly series Acts of Kindness.