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For immediate release Thursday, June 10, 2010.
Contact Bob Brammer 515-281-6699 Rbrammer@ag.state.ia.us

Miller: Parents are Key to Preventing Internet Crimes Against Children

New web site has info for parents – www.IaICAC.org .
AG’s Office receives 2010 Outstanding Service Award from ICAC Task Force.

Ankeny, Iowa. Iowa’s “Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force,” or ICAC, presented its 2010 Outstanding Service Award Thursday to the Attorney General’s Office for its work on legislation, prosecution and public education to prevent Internet Crimes Against Children.

Attorney General Tom Miller took the opportunity to hammer home a message to parents from his office and the Task Force:

“The Internet is a wonderful tool for kids," Miller said, "but it also can be a risky environment concealing dangerous sexual predators who harm children. Every parent must step up to inform and protect their kids.”

Miller said a new web site unveiled Thursday by the Task Force will help parents. “It’s an excellent tool to help parents do their job,” he said.

“We in law enforcement are working very hard to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators who would use the Internet to sexually harm our kids, but parents have a crucial role, too,” Miller said.

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More background and detail:

The Outstanding Service Award recognized the A.G. Office’s work to amend the “enticement” statute to make it a felony to attempt to entice a person the perpetrator reasonably believes is a child, even if the person is an undercover investigator. The new law, which takes effect July 1, supports undercover law enforcement operations that snare predators trolling the ‘Net aiming to entice children into meeting them for illegal sexual acts. The award also recognized the A.G. Office’s year-round public education efforts to prevent Internet crimes.

“I am pleased to accept this award on behalf people in our office who work hard on this mission,” Miller said. Miller lauded Chief of Staff Eric Tabor and Asst. A.G. Sherri Soich for their work on the legislation, and Investigator Mike Ferjak for his intensive work in public education of parents, teachers, and young people about preventing Internet crimes against children.

The “ICAC” Task Force:

The mission of the Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is to deter, prevent, investigate and prosecute predators who seek to exploit or engage minors in sexual activity through the use of computers and the Internet. Two main ways that happens are enticement of kids to meetings with adults, and child pornography. The Task Force is a collaboration of local, state and federal agencies.

The new ICAC Web Site is www.IaICAC.org. The web site includes: Discussion of the threat of Internet sexual exploitation of children – and how it’s a bigger threat than most realize. Internet Safety Tips for kids and parents. How to report an Internet crime. How to request an Internet safety program for a school or community. How to reach the Task Force or a participating agency near you, and other resources.

Main Points for Parents to Protect their Children Online:

        Miller said there are things that parents can and should do to protect children.

        First: Parents need to be involved in and aware of their children’s on-line activity, and must explain to kids that enticement is a real danger. Children can be enticed to meet a stranger in person after chatting with them on-line. Kids may be tricked into feeling the stranger is no threat. Or they may feel trapped into meeting someone after pictures or gifts that are exchanged, or perhaps some threat that was made by the on-line offender. “Perpetrators are very clever at such exploitation and deceit – and meetings can be very dangerous, of course,” Miller said. “Warn your child directly about this serious threat.”

         Second: “Do all you can to make your child feel “OK” about confiding in you or another trusted adult,” Miller said. “That could be the only way to get them help in a dangerous situation.”

         Some children hide the fact they are involved in a risky or questionable situation because they are afraid of losing their computer or being punished otherwise. Some, rather than telling a parent or trusted adult, will not tell anyone or perhaps will just tell a peer. Few, if any, of these situations are likely to go away on their own and most will only get much worse with time.

         Third: “Teach your children the dangers of “sexting,” and strongly advise kids not to do it,” Miller said. “Sexting” is sending nude or partially nude or sexually provocative pictures by email on the ‘Net. Most of the time it involves young people sending revealing pictures as a way of proving their feelings for their boyfriend or girlfriend. It is well-documented that “sexting” occurs widely in middle schools and even elementary schools. It’s a far more serious situation than it first appears, for at least three reasons:

    a. Pictures get into circulation and are misused. Boyfriends or girlfriends break up then use photos to embarrass or harass or even bully the other person. Joke pictures get misused and passed around. Pictures may be circulated and passed around for years.

    b. Serious on-line predators may convince a youth to send a “sexting” picture. The predator could use the threat of revealing the picture to coerce the child into meeting the predator. Or the picture could be circulated widely in child pornography circles.

    c. Kids can get in serious trouble for “sexting” – including being put on the State Sex Offender Registry. The law rightly takes very seriously the circulation of child pornography -- but that sometimes can rope in young people involved in “sexting.” (Sexting is sometimes defined as “self-produced child pornography.”) Young people sometimes may face serious charges for sexting, or being on the Sex Offender Registry.