August 27th, 2012
Millions of children nationwide are being approached by online predators. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that approximately 13 percent of youth internet users, which includes elementary and middle school students, will receive some type of sexual solicitation online.
In my home of Washington State this equates to as many as 60,000 students who might come be subjected to these online sexual advances. As our children head back to class in the coming days, I am working with elementary and middle school officials to help raise awareness and to focus attention on internet safety for kids.
Schools in Western Washington are receiving tip sheets from my office to distribute to all students and their parents. We are asking them to also put these important internet safety reminders on their websites and in their classrooms so their students know what to do if they are on the receiving end of a sexual solicitation.
In addition to these useful resources, I am also encouraging parents and teachers to explore netsmartz.org for great information about online safety. The website has a ton of great information about how predators use all kinds of electronic devices — including smart phones and even game consoles — in their attempts to contact students.
At one Seattle middle school, the message about internet safety was particularly timely. Last spring, five young students were contacted by someone claiming to be a teen-age girl. In reality the emails and texts they were receiving were from a registered sex offender who was trying to get sexually explicit photos of the boys. Fortunately, the boys told their parents who contacted the authorities and the predator was arrested.
The dangers that are lurking online are real. There is no better time than now, during these first few weeks of school when students, parents, and teachers first come together, to continue to remind our communities of these threats. I encourage all those who are involved with educating our youth to be vigilant and to monitor the online activity of their students. If you or your pupil comes in contact with material that is at all questionable, please notify school officials and the authorities as soon as possible.
Download U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan’s Internet Safety Tips. (PDF)