Children possibly at risk
Sexual predators who contact minors through the Internet are “the silent intruder coming into your schools and your homes,” U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said recently.
In addition, pedophiles have been fueled by an “explosion of child pornography” on the Internet, Scott said.
At a special dinner Thursday at Nevada Union High School, Scott and other experts gave parents and teachers advice on helping children protect themselves from online bullies and sexual predators.
The presentation was part of Project Safe Childhood, a federal program to investigate and prosecute crimes against children facilitated through the Internet and other electronic media and communication devices.
“Pedophiles use child pornography to convince children to do stuff,” he said.
According to Laurel White, for the assistant U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of California filed 71 cases related to child pornography or travel with the intention of unlawful sex with a minor between July 2005 and June 2006 in 34 counties. Between July 1998 and June 1999, only 10 such cases had been filed in the same district.
Nationwide, federal prosecutors charged 1,447 child exploitation cases involving pornography, coercion and enticement offenses against 1,503 defendants in fiscal year 2005, according to the Project Safe Childhood Web site.
Scott gave an examples of a cases he had come across: A psychiatrist from Saudi Arabia who traveled to the U.S. to have sex with someone he thought was a minor. The man is now in police custody.
Scott also discussed a case where a man was arrested for doing “sick, horrible, sexual conduct” with a 6-month-old baby.
“We teach our kids how to use the Internet? Do we teach them how to protect themselves?” Scott asked.
White said parents should know their children’s passwords to keep a track of their correspondences. Parents should talk to children about their activities on the Internet and find out filters that they can install on computers to block inappropriate Web sites.
Scott said it is wise to keep the computer in an open place in the house where parents can see what sites their children are visiting. A computer in a teenager’s room with a Webcam on it is a “perfect recipe for disaster,” he said.
“Most police departments have a section dealing with crimes against children,” White said. If something happens, “report the incident to the police.”
Computer classes in schools should educate students about sexual predators, White said.
Nanette Madsen, deputy director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, spoke about cyber-bullying. She urged students to use the three-fold strategy of “stop, block and report” to counteract cyber-bullies.
“The most important thing we have to teach children is to not respond to messages (that are aimed at bullying them), block the address (of the person sending the messages), and report the incident to an adult,” Madsen said.
Responding to derogatory messages often aggravates the situation, Madsen said.
White recommended the Web site of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for parents. The site has various useful links and resources, she said.
After the presentation with educators, Scott, White, Madsen and representatives from the FBI hosted another interactive session with parents at the Don Baggett Theatre at NU.
Teaching children how to be safe on the Internet should be a part of sex education, White said. The solution to the problem, she said, lies in informing both parents and kids about how to use the Internet safely.
To contact Staff Writer Soumitro Sen, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4229.
On the Web
For more resources on preventing abuse from online bullies and sexual predators, go to:
• Project Safe Childhood at http://www.projectsafechildhood.gov
• The Center for Missing and Exploited Children at http://www.ncmec.org
– Soumitro Sen
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