PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Eight-year-old DJ Walker is looking forward to a fun summer.
"I'm going to Virginia," he said, with a smile. "We have things planned, like going to summer camp."
His mother, Shauna Pierre of West Palm Beach, said she'll be watchful over his relationship with summer camp counselors.
"I just don't think I would ever trust someone that I'm not familiar with," said Pierre.
DJ is the exact same age as Charish Perriwinkle, who was found dead this morning in Jacksonville, a victim of a suspected murder.
"It breaks my heart," admitted Pierre. "It's such a different world that we live in today."
Cherise Benjoseph is a child safety expert and co-founder of "KidSafe," a non-profit dedicated to teaching parents how to better protect their children.
Benjoseph said child predators know how to "groom" intended victims to lower their defenses.
"He gained that person's trust probably within minutes," said Benjoseph. "I wasn't there so I don't want to speak to this particular case, but (offenders) are very savvy."
Benjoseph said parents should be on the lookout for warning signs from adults who interact with their children.
"If someone wants to spend time with your child, more than you spend time with your child, then that's a red flag," she said.
Benjoseph said parents should communicate with their children from an early age to report everything to them. She advises parents to teach kids not to keep secrets, even if a predator scares a child, threatens or makes promises if they tell. She also said it's important to teach children that it's OK to be rude, say no or to get away if they feel threatened.
"We do PTA presentations, group talks, anything we can do to spread the message of child safety," said Benjoseph. "This is a conversation that every parent needs to have with their child, and we want to help."
To find out more tips and access resources on how parents can protect their children, visit www.kidsafefoundation.org.
For Pierre, the tragedy is a wake-up call-- one that gives her extra reason to have a serious conversation with her young son.
"To let him know if you ever feel uncomfortable, it's OK to come and tell us," said Pierre.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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