Through websites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and even cell phones, it is easier than ever for cyberbullies and sexual predators to entice children into a compromising and dangerous position.
“I’ve lived here for about 10 years, and I love the city, but I know we have some issues with Internet porn and Internet safety for our children,” said Carolyn Parrish, who presented a KidZafe workshop on Monday to Villa Rica police officers.
The KidZafe workshop was created by a man with an Internet safety background who discovered strange phone numbers popping up on his account statement just hours before his son was to meet a sexual predator he had met online. Fortunately, he averted catastrophe, and the predator was jailed.
“Had he not been savvy with Internet safety, you never know what would have happened to his child,” Parrish said. “Fortunately, his was a good experience, and he’s just trying to get this message out to everyone.”
Parrish is part of a team of volunteers who present the KidZafe workshop to churches, civic organizations and other groups to educate them on Internet safety and signs to look for that children are either being bullied on the Internet or being “groomed” by a sexual predator.
“Parents need to know that there is something out there to protect their children,” she said.
The statistics presented during the workshop are startling, including the fact that 63 percent of teens have been asked to meet offline by someone they’ve never met before and more than 5 million children have been sexually solicited via social networking sites, though only 25 percent informed their parents of the situation.
According to VRPD Capt. Keith Shaddix, the local police department has investigated several incidents of cyberbullying and Internet sex crimes towards children.
“We’ve had some cases we’ve worked with both the cyberbullying, posting pictures and rude comments, on Facebook, and we’ve done the sexual predators online,” he said. “We’ve seen a little bit of all of it.”
VRPD Investigator Chris Bertera said there are several laws that are used to combat sexual predators found on the Internet in Georgia. For example, those taking lewd pictures of themselves children can be charged with the production of child photography,
if they send lewd pictures of themselves or a child it is considered distribution of child pornography and if they have pictures on their phone or computer it is considered possession of child pornography.
Anyone group interested in having a KidZafe workshop presented to them can contact Parrish at 404-202-0466 or email ProtectingKids@yahoo.com.