Protecting Kids From Online Sex Predators

By: Katie Kim Email
By: Katie Kim Email

When it comes to Howard Reeves' three children and the Internet, he takes every precaution.

"They have a time limit, so there's a certain amount of time they can be on it," Reeves says. "And the computer is in an open room with the monitor facing out, so we can see what they're looking at."

The threat of online child predators is always on Reeves' radar. And rightly so -- law enforcement agencies say Internet sex crimes happen daily.

"The volume of kids that are online and the volume of predators," says Joy Yearout, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office. "This is a crime that's very pervasive."

Yearout tells us the Attorney General's Office has prosecuted nearly 300 online sexual predators since 2003. The AG's Office has an entire division devoted to sting operations to catch these offenders.

"Investigators purport to be minors and they make it very clear they are under 18," Yearout explains. "We prosecute any case where the predator pursues that child."

But the explosion of social networking has made it harder to find predators. Yearout says that's because they use the anonymity of the Internet. So, agencies like the Michigan State Police have lauched statewide campaigns to educate parents and children.

"Some tips for kids include not to be afraid to come to a trusted adult if they see anything on the Internet that concerns them or upsets them," Yearout says.

Also, to not give out any personal information. For parents, Yearout says it's crucial to get familiar with the programs that kids are using.

"If they're going to use e-mail, make sure you have access to that e-mail and know who they're talking to on e-mail and Facebook."

Yearout says its not a matter about invading a child's privacy but ensuring his protection.

For more prevention and protection tips, visit the Michigan State Police website at www.michiganicac.com. Also, visit the Attorney General's Crime Safety Initiative at www.michigan.gov/csi.


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