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thedrifter
09-07-08, 08:39 AM
Family Advocacy warns families of Internet child predators

9/5/2008 By Cpl. Robert W. Beaver , Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN D8IEGO —The Internet can be a dangerous playground. Forty percent of all missing children in the country are related to the Internet, while 70 percent of them were targeted at home.

To protect our children, the Family Advocacy Center hosted an Internet safety class in Building 6E Aug. 19, where almost 30 kids learned to recognize, refuse, respond and report Internet predators.

“We want children to be smart while online—being aware of what they are doing,” said Susan Righthouse, detective, San Diego Police Department.

The hour-long class was presented by members of the San Diego based Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is comprised of federal, state and local agencies dedicated to apprehending and prosecuting Internet child predators.

“We think our kids are safe at home when they are on the computer, but they are not,” said Alessandra Serano, assistant United States attorney. “There are some sick people out there who prey on our youngest, and are really good at what they do.”

The children learned that almost all online predators reach their victims at home, through computers, video game consoles and cell phones. They will use these channels to disguise themselves as friends before isolating children from their families.

“Children do not know the difference between right and wrong,” said Serano. “They are impressionable and the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Children are at high risk because they are curious, easily led in conversation, need attention, affection, to please and sometimes defy parents, said Righthouse.

Righthouse warned the children about using social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook where users are allowed to leave hometown, school and hobby information about themselves.

“Predators can use this information and narrow down where they can find their victim,” said Serano.

Predators then pretend to be someone else, such as a new student at their school, and act like they share the same hobbies and interests to build trust with their victim.

As they bond online, the predator works at separating their victim from their family. They tell children to keep their conversations secret and try to turn them against their parents. They also threaten children if they do not give in to their requests.

“The best way children can protect themselves is to be as anonymous as possible,” said Righthouse. “They should never meet anyone in person, who they met online. Parents should also be aware of what their children are doing on the web.”

For more information on protecting children from internet predators, log on to Web sites www.icac.org, www.projectsafechildhood.gov, or www.ncmec.org.

Ellie