Internet Sexual Predators

Surfing the Internet has become a favorite pastime for today's youth. But do you know what websites your kids are visiting? And are they at any risk? In this special report, we see that sexual predators are waiting on-line for your children.

Internet predators are always on the lookout. And no child who goes on-line is immune, even here in the Valley. Police found that out when a student in his mid-20's from the University of New Mexico tried to meet up with a 15-year-old Page County boy. Special Agent Daryl Wells of the Virginia State Police says, "they had met on line. Arrangements had been made over the internet through that and through telephone calls in the early morning hours for this individual from New Mexico to come to Page County to spend a weekend with this child to have sexual relations." The boy's parent told police. The man was apprehended on his way to Page County.

Another Internet meeting involved a Bridgewater girl and a J.M.U. male student. Wells says it happens all too often. "I can go and I have on many occasions gone on-line acting as a 13-year-old child whether it be male or female and within five minutes have one or two individuals, adult individuals, that cross over the line to the point that they could be charged with attempted indecent liberties with a juvenile."

It all starts in chat rooms full of people and public conversations. But when the conversations go private, through a personal or instant message, predators can make their move. "These individuals that get into going after children go through a grooming process. Normally the child that they try to get hold of is a child with low self-esteem and they play into that," says Wells.

Rockingham County teacher Joe Showker gives seminars on Internet safety. He suggests using parental controls from your Internet provider that limit children's access. And he says, be aware of compulsive behavior, kids being on the Internet way too long. Showker says, "we teach the parents how to go into the history file. We teach them how to look and search in the temp files. And we teach them how to search for graphics and video clips that may have been downloaded onto their home computers from inappropriate web pages."

Special Agent Wells suggests having your computer in a well-traveled area of the home. And have an open line of communication with your child.

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