Internet Crimes Against Children agent says 'Kids don't need to be that wired'

October 09, 2007

NASHVILLE, Tenn., October 3, 2007 /GBOD/ – The number of Internet users worldwide grew from 61 million to 147 million in 24 months, said Tom Evans, an agent investigator with Internet Crimes Against Children, speaking to almost 150 United Methodists gathered for a CyberSAFEty training event sponsored by the General Board of Discipleship, October 1-3.


According to Evans, “Internet safety with kids is so important because the problem is prevalent and exposure to inappropriate material and file sharing is growing.”


Evans has seen a rise in the number of cases involving children, including (in order of prevalence):


  • Possession of child pornography
  • Distribution of child pornography
  • Solicitation of a minor
  • Manufacturing of child pornography; and
  • Endangering the welfare of a child.


“There is a need for legislation to put offenders behind bars for crimes against a child. We need to increase sentencing guidelines and stiffer penalties are needed,” he said.


Evans offered the following advice to participants.

  • Reign technology in. Kids don’t need to be that wired.
  • Parents should have a MySpace account.
  • Kids shouldn’t include identifying information on sites such as FaceBook and My Space.
  • Know all user names and passwords.
  • Prevent right click and save.
  • Limit the number of pictures that are put there.
  • Don’t include names. “Stranger – Danger” is still a good thing.


More than half (55%) of all online American youths ages 12-17 use online social networking sites such as MySpace, according to Pew Internet Research.


“It is not unheard of for children to be abducted. Anything that identifies a child on a website can be used by a predator to focus on where a child is located,” said Evans.


Alerting participants to the dangers of file sharing, Evans warned that “it is not just in big cities. It’s everywhere. File sharing is important because it lets us know how prevalent child porn is. Kids are using this for free,” he said.


Evans also said that the typical profile of an Internet child sex offender is a 19-to-65- or 70-year-old white male.


The workshop included a panel discussion on things to think about and things to do with social networking and technology in ministry.


“It was a lot of information to better train both our youth and youth workers about the power and perils of the internet,” said Kelly Newell, California-Nevada Coordinator of Youth and Camping Ministries, who attended the workshop. “It also provided an opportunity to collaborate with other youth and camping coordinators to discuss the need for policy and training to further protect the mission and purpose of our ministry.”


“Cybersafety is not a one-time event,” says Stephen Streett, an associate pastor from the North Georgia Conference. “We must have an awareness of youth culture…and find out what they are listening to.”


Nashville media specialist, Karen Douse said, “Don’t be overly fearful. Teen Angels warns teens of the dangers but also shows how you can be safe and do the things you need to do online.”


“Be an adult teens can go to. Keep the lines of communication open,” she told the group.


“Know how to set privacy settings, which keep people out who are looking for an easy way in.”


But privacy settings are only as good as your passwords, says Paul O’Briant.


“Learn the value of a strong password. Strong passwords have numbers and letters, and include capital and lower case letters,” he said.