Protecting kids is a full-time job
- West Linn Tidings - Opinion
Recent news has been riddled with reports of sexual predators. Some have been caught in an attempt to victimize children. Sadly, others have been caught or are being sought after children have been harmed or killed.
With the number of predators that have been sent to prison and continue to be monitored after release, one would think most of them would be under control.
But they just keep coming, many hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet.
The recent cyber-sting that captured seven men attempting to have sex with a fictitious 13-year-old girl in Wilsonville is a good example of how many people are out there who would take advantage of our children.
Those men who decided to come to Wilsonville - at least one came from as far as Seattle - were only a small part of the number who 'talked sex' with the undercover police officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.
This recent example should not suggest that all predators are men seeking preteen girls; boys are just as vulnerable. Too often the predator has been someone well known to the victim, but technology is both a blessing and a curse.
The local police sting should be a wake-up call for all parents. Children lack the maturity to say no, and those who stalk them know how to 'groom' them into doing things they'll regret.
If parents already monitor their children's activities and check with their friends' parents to see how their child is acting or set limits on the time a child must arrive at home, then why should it not be a high priority to monitor or limit a child's use of the Internet, where anonymity breeds familiarity?
There are many methods available to parents to place limits on Internet use. A little parental research will reveal more types of software than anyone needs.
Local residents wouldn't have to go further than the West Linn Police Department to get free software that makes monitoring Internet use easy. The WLPD offers 'Computer Cop,' software that helps parents keep tabs on their children.
A statement on the CD cover makes very clear the sentiment of local police. 'Children are particularly vulnerable when online, and sexual predators know this,' is written on the CD cover. 'With the increased use of technology everywhere, people with evil intent find ways to victimize you and your family.'
Police and counselors also advise that an important component of providing protection is education: talking with children of any age at their level of understanding. If children are aware that the danger exists and that there are dangerous consequences possible, they are more likely to react sooner against any threat they might perceive.
In addition, the fact that a parent discusses this threat with their child is a sign of good parenting, and should create a feeling in the child that the parent places a high priority on safety.
That kind of discussion between parent and child can counteract that inevitable teen-age feeling of immortality.
Stay protected from sexual predators:
* Free computer monitoring software, West Linn police, 503-655-6214;
* Sexual offenders list, http://freeoregonsexoffenderslist.org;
* Tips for children, Child Safe Network at www.childsafenetwork.org, 'Safety Tips;'
*Info. to protect families, www.wiredsafety.org and www.wiredsafety.org/ sp_tut.html.