August 13, 2009
Protecting Kids against Predators
Internet and other technology crimes against children are continuing threats in our communities. As technology advances, so too does the need of law enforcement to use innovation and collaboration to prevent criminal acts and hold offenders accountable. The Department of Justice (DOJ) estimates that over 22,304 Internet addresses in Wisconsin contain and offer to distribute known images of child pornography. Online predators contact one in seven children to engage in sexual activities, sexual talk, or to provide personal sexual information. Law enforcement and parents need to work together to combat these alarming statistics and keep children safe.
Young children are not the only victims; teenagers are susceptible to technology crimes as well. Recent headlines note cases of teens falling victim to cyber bullying by classmates, identity theft, and fraud schemes via social networking sites. Additionally, the prevalence of “sexting” has become a disturbing trend, which often involves teenagers sending sexually explicit photographs and messaging among classmates by e-mail and cell phones. Tragically for the victims, once those photographs go online, they continue distribution beyond intended audiences and can remain permanently in cyber space.
The sheriff departments of Burnett, Dunn, Polk and St. Croix counties, as well as the Menomonie St. Croix Tribal police department, have joined the Wisconsin Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) under Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen,. In addition to new training and informational opportunities, counties are eligible for funding reimbursement for ICAC expenses including hardware and software used to catch online predators and investigation assistance for forensic computer analysis. Similarly, many school districts throughout the state are implementing increased safety precautions to deal with these issues.
While local law enforcement and schools have stepped up efforts to protect children from online predators, the best protection is prevention at home. Parental awareness and involvement are keys to keeping children safe when they use the Internet and other technologies. Technology usage is changing, and parents must be aware of emerging trends.
Learn more about how to protect kids from predators and access helpful tools by visiting my web blog from August 6 at www.harsdorfsenate.com.