Parents Beware of Online Predators - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/17/03

Parents Beware of Online Predators

Local authorities want parents and kids to be aware of the growing trend of child pornography and cyber sex in this area.

We told you last week about the 13-year-old Lubbock girl that was seduced over the Internet and eventually led into sexual activity with a man twice her age. 38-year-old Eric Wise of Iowa was indicted on several counts, including child pornography, interstate transportation of child pornography, enticing a child over the Internet, and traveling for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with a juvenile. He faces up to 120 years in prison.

This situation began in a chat room, and ended when the young girl to fell in love with a child predator. So how does this happen? And what do you need to know so it doesn't happen to you or someone in your family?

These days learning how to work a computer and surfing the Internet is part of the curriculum for school age kids from elementary school on. But just like you'd tell your child not to talk to a stranger at the mall, you need to warn them of the strangers on the Internet as well.

"It usually will start in chat rooms, buddy lists that they have with their Internet chats. It usually will seem innocent, nothing to it. But a lot of times when a profile is made on the Internet that person explains who they are, likes and dislikes. So now that person already has an idea of what their getting into mainly because a young person does not understand the complications and the dangers that are out there," said Juvenile Sergeant Scott Farmer with the Lubbock Police Department.

Farmer also says kids don't realize the danger of sharing their personal information, nor do they understand that a predator could be posing as a friend. That's where the parents come in.

"I think it would be good for the parents and the children to realize that the predators are very skillful in how they make the contact. They usually start off as being very close in age in their Internet identity, then they gradually increase the age as the child becomes attached to them. So they try to befriend them, then invariably if the child ever does agree to meet one of these predators at that time they feel like they are very close friends with the predators, a lot of times they are even in love," said Assistant US Attorney Steve Socsy.

According to Socsy, predators groom young boys and girls, making them feel good about themselves and vulnerable to their online pal.

"Parents really need to pay attention, to chat rooms, to IM, instant messaging. They need to educate their children because a new criminal is out there. They can reach into the safety of your home and basically snatch your child," said Pam Alexander.

Pam Alexander, a counselor with Victims Assistance, says you have to stay involved in your children business, its not a matter of trust, but out of concern for their safety.

"I would definitely say have your parental guards, controls on there, and pay attention to what your kids are doing. If a child is staying on the computer for long periods of time, night after night, you need to find out who they are talking to and what's being said because they are creeping into your home. The way we can stop this crime, and it can be stopped is for parents to pay attention to what your child doing on the computer," said Alexander.

According to Victims Assistance and the Lubbock Police Department, this type of crime is on the rise, with more than a dozen reported here locally. But this was the first traveling case reported in our area.

As the world of computers continues to evolve, so do the methods and tactics of law enforcement and authorities across the country are on-track to putting a stop to Internet sex crimes.

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