Online Predators

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

The statistics are startling: one in five teenagers who log in to an Internet chat room will receive unsolicited sexual communication.

Earlier this month you might recall a North Carolina man was arrested for sending pornographic pictures to a Rockford teen, but area schools are teaching kids to protect themselves against Internet predators.

A different kind of lesson is being taught in many stateline schools, a lesson that could save lives.

"Nobody is safe from this," says St. Bernadette teacher Jolyn Fasula, one of the first teachers to use the ‘missing’ program in her classroom.

A teenager, Zach, has been lured to California by an online predator. Students must find and rescue him. They uncover clues with the help of Zach's dad and police detectives.
They search old chat room conversations and take a closer look at pictures Zach posted to see how much information he may have unknowingly shared.

"In training we were told within 10 minutes a predator can get almost everything about a child out of them without the child even realizing he's talking," says Fasula.

But with this lesson Fasula says these kids are realizing how dangerous the Internet can be and how simple chats with strangers they think are their friends can be big mistakes.

"I figured people were doing it, but I didn't think, kind of, like that," says 8th grader Deborah Hilby.

"It's supposed to help us know that it's dangerous to be on the Internet and you have to be careful who you're talking to," adds Dominic Rilott.

Fasula says we're not going to keep are kids off the computer, because there are some good things on there, but like anything else that poses a risk, she says we must teach our kids about good and bad decisions.

Both public and private schools in our area will be using the 'missing' program. It's not costing them anything either. Thanks to a federal grant, the materials and the teacher training for the lesson is covered.


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