Police say the number of children targeted by online predators is growing at an alarming rate, but local leaders are trying to give our kids the tools to stop it.
They log on to the Internet looking for their next victim. They're criminals, and our kids have become a target.
"In years past the predators were in parks or lurking in the areas kids play. Today, they're in people's homes," says Rockford Deputy Police Chief Dominic Iasparro.
The Internet has opened our doors, but local leaders announced Wednesday a plan to curb these crimes: arm kids with knowledge.
Cong. Don Manzullo secured $250,000 to get a new video game into stateline middle and high school classrooms. It'll teach kids how to protect themselves from online predators.
"I think it'll engage students, and they'll get the info they need to know and do it in a game format," says Regional Superintendent of Schools Sr. Richard Fairgrieves.
The game is called “Missing.” A boy named Zach has been kidnapped by an online predator. Students must track him down. Using clues, they'll find out who took Zach, uncover how it happened, and ultimately rescue the boy.
"It teaches kids how not to get involved in a situation like that. It shows them red flags and the patterns these predators use," says Manzullo.
Area leaders say there’s also a message for parents: the importance of monitoring what our kids are doing and who they're talking to on their computers.
Teachers from both public and private schools will train on the program next week. It's a three-hour session, so students could see this lesson in their classrooms by the end of next week.