MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As kids head back to school following the holiday break, many will be showing their friends the new tech gadgets they got as gifts.

Whether it’s a smartphone or a gaming console, children can use these devices to communicate online not just with friends, but also with people they don’t understand are predators.

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The threat is so great that Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has an entire unit devoted to Internet Crimes Against Children.

The BCA not only investigates those crimes but it aggressively does outreach and education to warn parents and young people about the threat.

Karina Hedinger, the BCA’s training and education coordinator for Internet Crimes Against Children unit, spoke with WCCO-TV’s Esme Murphy on WCCO Sunday Morning.

She said it’s important for parents to listen to their kids, and try to keep track of what apps and social networking sites their children are using.

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“Hundreds of different apps and social networking sites are emerging on the internet at all times,” Hedinger said. “And so, yeah, it’s really difficult to keep on top of what’s going on, but that’s why it’s really important to listen to your kids.”

The key thing kids shouldn’t do online, according to Hedinger, is give out personal information, including their name, address, what school they go to, what sports they play.

“Don’t share that with people you don’t know in real life,” Hedinger said.

When should parents start talking to kids about internet safety?

“The younger the better,” Hedinger said.

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To see the full interview with Hedinger, watch the video above.