Federal Program Aims to Protect Kids Online

By: Kim Bedford
By: Kim Bedford

Knoxville (WVLT) - From cyber bullying to conversations with strangers, the World Wide Web can be a dangerous place for your children.

A new nationwide campaign kicked off Friday, warning young girls and parents about posting pictures and information online.

The Department of Justice initiative is called "project safe childhood", aimed at protecting teenage girls from on-line predators...

Their message? Think before you post.

"Pretty much everyone's on MySpace," says Brook Watts.

MySpace.com, one of the most popular social networking sites, with 61% of 13-17 year olds posting a personal profile.

"It's becoming a big problem," KPD Investigator Tom Evans is a member of the Knoxville Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce. He says more teenage girls are posting revealing pictures of themselves for online predators to see. "These images can be taken, saved, downloaded, captured somehow by an individual or transmitted or morphed or changed into something they're not."

"The personal information can go from anything from photographs of themselves to personal information about their names and addresses, to nude photographs," U.S. Attorney Russ Dedrick says unfortunately young girls are under constant pressure to look more appealing. "They try to emulate the Paris Hilton effect, as it's known. They're trying to be pretty."

Dedrick says most parents have no idea what their children may have in their profile and many teens often lie about their age.

"I'm Leah. I'm actually 15, but I won't tell if you don't," Evans reads.

"It's just a trend," 16-year-old Brooke Watts has a MySpace page, but says it's blocked so only her friends can see it. "I have pictures and stuff of me and my friends and just a few things about me."

Brooke's mother Angie says she doesn't worry about her daughter's profile because she knows exactly what's in it. "I have looked at it and I know who's on there and what's going on. I check."

Along with knowing what's in your child's profile, the campaign is also urging parents to keep the computer in a central place in the house, not the bedroom.

If your child has a MySpace page, KPD recommends you use the block feature so no strangers can access it.

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