At the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ), one of the ways we protect children is through our Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.
Since its inception as one of the first in a coordinated national effort that began in 1998, Wisconsin’s ICAC Task Force has arrested more than 900 child predators and executed more than 1,600 search warrants.
We also have developed a unique partnership with our Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the state to further enhance our outreach efforts to educate parents and children about Internet safety. To help protect children and to help parents, teachers, and child welfare advocates better protect children, Wisconsin’s ICAC Task Force has educated more than 300,000 people of all ages across the state, and it has more than 175 affiliate agencies, local police and sheriff’s departments, as partners to investigate technology facilitated crimes against children.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) interacts regularly with ICAC task forces, including ours in Wisconsin, to provide assistance during investigations where the suspect has solicited young victims from throughout the U.S. and other countries. Anyone having information regarding online sexual exploitation of children should report this information to NCMEC, via a CyberTip (www.cybertipline.com), and to local law enforcement.
Since parents are often the first line of protection, the following tips should be considered.
• Be an Active Parent. Keep open lines of communication with children about Internet use.
Prepare Your Children for the Online World as You Do the Real World. Make no mistake, the online world is real, and so are its dangers. Talk to your children about the benefits and dangers of the Internet. You tell your children not to jump into a stranger’s car alone and why that’s dangerous; tell them why they shouldn’t travel the Internet alone and why doing so is dangerous.
• Watch Internet Use. Internet predators are watching your children online. You should too. One suggestion: keep computers in common areas, not in your child’s bedroom Predators use all kind of tools to connect with kids, including instant messaging, picture and video trading, chat rooms, web cameras, web microphones, social networking and online gaming networks. Know how your child is using the Internet and with whom he or she is communicating.
• Use Software Resources. Use filters that block inappropriate websites or online services that are harmful to kids. Consider installing monitoring software, which records everything kids do online, from instant messaging to videos to picture trading.
• Learn How to Use it. As parents, you should familiarize yourself with the technology being used by your children. With this knowledge, you will be in a better position to ensure your children’s safety.
• It’s Not Just the Computer. Predators can reach children though smart phones, Ipad and other tablet devices, and interactive gaming systems. Find out how your children are communicating and understand the technology. If you can’t appropriately supervise use, don’t allow it. Often, predators use cell phones and other communication devices to further their exploitation of children after meeting those children online.
• Report Online Exploitation. Call local law enforcement or the Wisconsin ICAC Task Force at 608-266-1671.
• Find Out More. Visit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s “NetSmartz” websites. The site – www.netsmartz411.org – is geared to help parents; www.netsmartz.org includes information for parents, kids, educators, and law enforcement.
• Visit us online. Visit www.doj.state.wi.us/dci/icac/ for more information.
J.B. Van Hollen is the Wisconsin Attorney General.