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September 29, 2006
McKenna Says Parents Must Help in Fight Against Online Dangers

Law Enforcement, Educators Gear Up to Teach Kids and Parents Internet Safety though NetSmartz Partnership

BURIEN – Attorney General Rob McKenna wants parents to know that cyberspace is not a safe place for kids and teens to explore without Internet safety awareness. McKenna announced a new multi-agency partnership this week that uses Internet safety education as a tool to protect youth from online predators, pornography, and cyberbullies.

“The first thing that we, as parents, teach our children about personal safety is, ‘Don’t talk to strangers,’” McKenna said. “We need to be talking to them about how to take precautions when communicating in a virtual world, too.”

“On social networking sites, teens can find peers who share their hobbies and interests,” McKenna continued. “They can also find out where their online friends live and what they look like. And so can predators.”

According to a new study by the Crimes Against Children Research Center:

  • One in seven young people who use the Internet is solicited for sex online,
  • One in three is exposed to sexually explicit pictures, and
  • One in 11 is harassed or threatened online.

“Those of us in criminal justice are all too familiar with these grim statistics,” McKenna said. “However, we also know the value of education as a tool for prevention. State, federal and local law enforcement agencies have formed a new partnership and teamed up with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to implement the NetSmartz program in Washington.”

NetSmartz creates age-appropriate educational materials to teach youth from kindergarten age up through high school about how to avoid online dangers and be respectful online.

Nearly 300 educators and law enforcement officers attended workshops Thursday and Friday in Spokane and Burien to learn how to teach Internet safety to students, parents and other teachers and enforcement officers.

“Criminals aren’t the only threat to our kids,” McKenna said. “Youth, especially teens, can also can be a threat to their peers. Cell phones, instant messaging and social networking sites are now common weapons for spreading gossip.”

Teens have published inflammatory statements. Middle-school girls report using their cell phones to take pictures of other girls in the locker room. Those photos are then released into cyberspace.

“ Forget the adage ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt.’ This hurts,” McKenna said.

McKenna offered the following tips for parents:

  • Keep your kids safe by establishing rules for Internet use and monitoring their online activities.
  • Your home computer belongs in a common room – never a child’s bedroom. Software is available to block access to chat rooms and unwanted Web sites.
  • Be informed. Ask your children to show you how they use the Internet. Learn their lingo.
  • Your son or daughter probably communicates online with friends. Know who your children are talking to. Online predators often pose as peers in order to win their victims’ trust.
  • Talk to your children about reporting inappropriate contact from strangers and tell law enforcement if your child has been solicited online.
  • Report contact from an online predator to local law enforcement or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. or 1-800-843-5678
  • Visit the Attorney General’s Office Web site for more Internet safety information.

The workshops were sponsored by the Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern and Western Districts of Washington, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Educational Service District 101, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and NetSmartz. They were partly funded by the Attorney General’s Office using consumer protection recoveries and restitution for education and by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood Initiative.

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Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer, (206) 464-6432

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