Friday, November 05, 2010

Perspectives from the Lincoln Park Patrol

The Internet is a valuable tool, but parents and other adults need to be aware of its hazards so that they can help children and teens to stay safe

By Pam Kleinschmidt

At the City Wide Crime Prevention Meeting at Holy Family Catholic Church last month, Sgt. Nicolas Alexander from the Superior Police Department provided a riveting presentation on the dangers the Internet can pose to children as they explore the cyber world.
Alexander said that children and teenagers are sometimes interested and curious about sexually explicit web pages on the Internet.

According to the FBI Parental Guide on Internet Safety, “They may be moving away from the total control of parents and seeking to establish new relationships outside their family. Sex offenders targeting children will use and exploit these characteristics and needs.

Some adolescent children may also be attracted to and lured by on-line offenders closer to their age who, although not technically child molesters, may be dangerous. Nevertheless, they have been seduced and manipulated by a clever offender and do not fully understand or recognize the potential danger of these contacts.”

To illustrate the reality of this danger, Alexander went online in an Internet chat room posing as a 14-year-old girl. Chat windows, calling cards from predators, began to pop up, filling the computer screen. Each new chat message window that opened warned of a hungry wolf appearing to prey on an unattended lamb.

The reality was terrifying and left many of us talking about the experience for weeks afterward. It took less than 10 minutes of online chat for a child predator fully aware of “Autumn’s” age to expose himself to “her” via web cam.

The Internet is a valuable tool for us all. Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook provide all of us with marvelous opportunities to exchange information and reach out and connect with others. The information highway is safer to navigate when aware of the hazards, but it is challenging to stay ahead of the criminals who wish to exploit us.

Below you will find some online resources provided by those dedicated officers from the Superior Police Department and the FBI.

Internet Safety Web Sites
A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety, US Department of Justice, FBI-Publications

Kleinschmidt is a member of the Lincoln Park Citizens Patrol. To learn more about the LPCP phone 218-722-7178 or search for Lincoln Park Citizen Patrol on Facebook.