EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire archives

September 18, 2006

County attorney to speak with parents about Web site dangers

DANVILLE - To help parents concerned about sexual predators who could find their children on the Internet, the Police Department and the county attorney's office are teaming up to offer a presentation on safety.

On Sept. 27, County Attorney James Reams will talk about social networking sites such as MySpace.com, the dangers of those sites, and ways to protect children. The program will be at Danville Elementary School at 7 p.m.

Every 10 days to two weeks, the Rockingham County Internet Crimes Task Force arrests someone in a "travelers" case - an instance when a person travels to have sex with a minor, he said. Reams added that the task force could arrest someone daily if it had the manpower. He said the county does not have the resources to do more because Internet crimes are a new area of law enforcement and more money would be needed.

National statistics show about 25 percent of children have been solicited for sex over the Internet, he said, noting that the county's experience is similar to the national numbers. But he said that figure is probably an understated statistic because not all children talk about being solicited.

Danville police Chief Wade H. Parsons said the social networking Web sites are big concerns for parents because of the potential for predators to lure children. That's why the department wanted to offer the presentation, he said.

Reams held his first presentation on MySpace and similar sites in Hampton in April. He said that typically when his office does presentations on such topics as drugs and alcohol, about 25 to 30 people attend. He was surprised when 125 to 150 parents attended the session.

He offered a 30- to 45-minute presentation on the dangers of the Web site and explained how predators use the site to get information about children, then answered questions. But after more than an hour of questions, he said the janitor at the school had to close the building for the night and asked them to wrap things up.

"It's really a hot topic for parents," Reams said.

Children understand the Internet, but parents are not as fluent, he said. In addition, technology is evolving so fast, Reams said, "They don't know where to turn."

Reams, who teaches for the National Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, also plans to talk about how parents can protect their children. He said two software programs - Netsmartz and Web Wise Kids - teach children how to be safer while using the Internet.

Netsmartz.org is a program of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

BOX

What: Presentation on the dangers of social networking sites such as MySpace

Who: County Attorney James Reams

When: Sept. 27, 7 p.m.

Where: Danville Elementary School, 23 School St.

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