Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Program warns of Web dangers

Parents can learn how to avoid predators

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ERLANGER - Two Maysville girls were lured to California in March when a 30-year-old man they met in an Internet chat room sent them one-way bus tickets. The girls said he promised to show them the exciting West Coast. Detectives said the man wanted to enslave them in a life of prostitution.

That attempt to sexually exploit children is just one of example of online danger that is bringing a federally funded Internet safety training program to Erlanger on Wednesday. A team from I-Safe America, a nationwide educational effort to curb Internet crimes against children, is stopping in a Kentucky community each day this week to train about 300 people.

What: I-Safe Internet safety program for parents
When: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Lloyd High School Dietz Auditorium, 450 Bartlett Ave., Erlanger
Information: Kenton Crime Prevention Coalition at (859) 727-2678; www.isafe.org
"Do you really know who our children are online with - who their online friends are?" asked Bob Douglas, executive director of the Erlanger-based Kentucky Crime Prevention Coalition.

I-Safe is a nonprofit organization funded by a congressional appropriation of $3.5 million.

During the day, police and educators will take part in a five-hour training session. Then at 6 p.m., there will be a session open to the public at Lloyd High School. I-Safe organizers hope that the invitation to the community serves as a call-to-action in the effort to address Internet crime nationally.

Parents will come away with ways to protect their children, organizers say. Among them: Keep your computer in an open area so a child's surfing can be monitored, said Jonathan King, outreach director for I-Safe. Also, keep an open line of communication: Parents should be able to answer all questions if their child is exposed to sexually oriented material online.

"It is kind of scary what happens on the Web, and the initial reaction from parents is to take the technology away," said King. "But the Net isn't going away. We need to teach children how to make the right decision when faced with the negative aspects of society - not shelter them."

While the two Maysville girls were rescued without having been harmed, the goal of I-Safe is to educate children not to get in a dangerous situation.

U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas of Kentucky is scheduled to speak at the public session. ""I'm proud to participate in this important event," he said.

E-mail jhannah@enquirer.com

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