Protecting kids on the Internet |

Protecting kids on the Internet

Joe Hoy

One of the fastest growing sources of information and education for our children is the Internet. But there is a darker side.

Unfortunately, the Internet has become a haven for predators and child molesters to gain access to our children. In the past, these sick individuals could be found lurking around playgrounds, malls, zoos and amusement parks. Now they are online and more dangerous than ever.

We teach our children not to give out personal information online and they listen. But it is not our personal information that online predators are looking for, it is the children themselves.

While our children are learning, socializing and chatting with others online, there is the potential they are opening our homes and sanctuaries to these predators. One in five children, ages 10 to 17, has received a sexual solicitation over the Internet in the past year.

These solicitations can comprise a diverse range of offenses including attempted and completed sexual assaults; illegal use of the Internet to transmit sexual material to solicit minors; and the possession, distribution and production of child pornography. These predators stalk our children in chat rooms, through e-mails and on Web sites.

When a child interacts with others in a chat room, a predator may be watching and waiting to find a “likely target.” Once a predator identifies a potential victim, contact is easily made.

They create a “friendship” with a child, usually under false pretenses, and the grooming process begins. The child feels safe because they are at home, in their sanctuary. With this false sense of security, the new friend is no longer a stranger and the child begins to confide to the predator.

There even are programs and viruses that a predator can activate as soon as they send an e-mail to their potential victim which can allow the predator to actually gain control of a webcam.

This process usually slips through most virus detectors and you don’t even know your webcam is being controlled by the predator. They can turn the webcam on and off at their leisure, seeing what they want and at the same time gaining information about their target.

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office is currently creating an informational program for parents about several proactive programs that deal with online safety. We will be utilizing resources like “Mousetrap: Protecting America’s Children from Online Predators,” “Safe Surfing,” “CompCop” and resource material from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

These programs are educational and some programs alert you and track your child’s online activities.

Our goal is to educate and challenge you, as a community, to become more informed about the Internet and online predators.

These programs are designed to help children, parents, teachers and other concerned adults understand the world of Internet communication and see inside the work of the online predator.

We all must take steps to protect our children.

Some basic protection measures you can take now are:

n Never put a computer in the child’s bedroom or private area. Be sure to put the computer in an open area of the house and be nosey. Know where your kids are surfing and who they are talking to.

n Never allow a child to be online in the afternoon or directly after school without an adult to monitor the actions. Most predators are grooming and stalking from work computers, they know parents are not home from work yet and the child is on-line alone. And, stay out of chat rooms.

Remember, this is not a computer crime ” it is child sexual abuse facilitated through the computer.

Author’s note: Special thanks to Dep. Tamra Blackard and the Crime Prevention Unit for researching this article.

Vail Colorado

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