Many parents have spent years ingraining a warning into the minds of their children: Don’t talk to strangers.
S.C. Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force cases since 2004:Arrests: 375Convictions: 244Pending: 95Source: S.C. Attorney General
But talking to kids about the lurking wanderer offering candy is no longer enough. Another predator exists, and he or she could already be inside your home without you knowing it, according to police.
“We don’t teach them (children) enough about Internet safety. You think about it, you have a DSL line or a cable modem line, so you’re letting strangers into your house every single day in intimate settings,” said Doug Galluccio, a detective with the Charleston Police Department’s cyber crime unit and an investigator for the S.C. Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
This week, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson is marking its first “Stay Safe Online” week in hopes of raising awareness of internet crimes against children. Officials want it to spark conversations between parents and their children across the state about the risks online.
“The Internet is like a chainsaw. In the hands of someone who understands and respects it, it can be a very powerful tool that can make work and life a lot easier. But in the hands of someone who doesn’t understand or respect it, it can be a very dangerous weapon,” Wilson said in a statement.
Since 2004, the state task force has arrested 375 potential predators, according to Wilson’s spokesman, Mark Powell.
“It’s very prevalent because it’s very easy,” Galluccio said. “They have the ability to put up fake pictures, make that child think they are chatting with somebody else.”
Many of them are now using popular social media sites, Galluccio said. “There’s tons of predators on Facebook alone,” he said. “If you don’t have any privacy settings there, predators will just troll through Facebook to look for pictures of kids that are open profiles, that are not secured properly.”
In February, his office arrested Glen Rogers, 46, of Gatetree Road in Charleston and charged him with using Facebook and other social networking sites to try to convince teenage girls to have sex with him.
Galluccio encourages parents to block some websites and set high privacy settings on sites such as Facebook.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.