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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Success Story: Father & Daughter Reunion

This letter was written by a left-behind father after being reunited with his daughter.  Child Quest worked with the family, law enforcement, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in a joint effort to locate this father's 2 year old daughter who had been unlawfully concealed since 1/31/2011.  Out of respect to the family, the names & photos have been removed.

"My beautiful baby is home!

I've had to use the words 'thank you' in a number of emails last night and today for lack of a more apt phrase. Those two words are a wholly inadequate expression to use in any message to those without whom recovery would have been impossible and hope invisible. Instead, I will only express my desire that you and others like you should feel as proud as you deserve to feel. I was given the privilege to personally and literally fly through the air and 'rescue' [my baby], a fact that gives me great satisfaction and pleasure. For that gift any expression of gratitude is a poor excuse for a reward. When [my baby] is old enough to understand, she will learn your names.

There is still some legal work to be done to guard against this nightmare happening again, but now I have more than enough energy and courage to scour every angle.

The attached picture [removed] was taken at the Quality Inn in Texas. These accommodations were provided by a dear friend in that region. That evening it was clear [my baby] remembered me. She communicated this with several dozen hugs and laughter as well as her own brand of silly-face jokes. We played and played until night-night time. It was glorious.

Be well. Never stop.

Sincerely, [Father]"

Keeping Hope Alive - Child Quest International

ERIC ANTWAN BELL - Child Predator/Wanted by FBI

Producing Child Pornography; Aiding and Abetting the Production of Child Pornography; Unlawfully Possessing a Firearm; Engaging in Sex Trafficking of a Minor; Aiding and Abetting Sex Trafficking of a Minor
NCIC: W051895955

Date(s) of Birth Used: March 11, 1974
Place of Birth: Tallahassee, Florida
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 190 pounds
Hair: Black
Eyes: Brown
Sex: Male
Race: Black
Nationality: American
Occupation: Long haul truck driver

Scars and Marks: Bell has a tattoo on his chest. He also has scars on his right finger, right hand, and right elbow. 

Remarks: Bell allegedly makes false identification. Bell has ties to the New York and New Jersey areas; and Gainesville, Tallahassee and Bradenton, Florida. Photo taken in 2008.

Eric Antwan Bell, a convicted felon, is wanted for his alleged involvement in the sex trafficking of minors in the Tampa, Florida area. It is alleged that Bell had underage girls working for him from his residence since 2008, and advertised them for prostitution on the Internet. A local, state, and federal multi-agency task force initiated an investigation in 2009.  On January 3, 2011, a federal warrant was issued for Bell's arrest by the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida, Tampa, Florida, after he was charged federally with producing child pornography, aiding and abetting the production of child pornography, unlawfully possessing a firearm, engaging in sex trafficking of a minor, and aiding and abetting sex trafficking of a minor.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to Bell's arrest.

If you have any information concerning this person, please contact the FBI's toll free number: 1-866-838-1153, in Tampa, Florida; your local FBI office; or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What To Do If...

…a child is missing.  Call 911 to make a report to your local police department and call the Child Quest toll-free hotline immediately: 1-888-818-HOPE. Gather recent photographs of the child (to make posters) as well as any other identifying documents and information. Notify the child’s relatives, their friend’s parents and the passport office. Call and ask the child’s school, doctor, and bank to flag the child’s records.

…a child reports an attempted stranger abduction.  Obtain any counseling or medical attention needed by the child. Report the attempt to your local police department. Notify local schools and children’s organizations in the community to ensure that they are alerted of a potential danger.

…a child has been abused.  If a child reports abuse, tell the child that he or she did the right thing by telling you. Studies show that children rarely lie about abuse. Tell children you believe them, and let them know it is not their fault. Try to remain outwardly calm. Ask the child to tell you in his or her own words what happened. Try to avoid leading questions like “Did the person touch your private parts?” Instead ask the child to point to where on their body the touch or hurt happened. Tell the child that you are going to report it to some people who know how to help children with problems like this. Call and report the abuse to the National Child Abuse Reporting Line, your local Child Protective Services, and the police department immediately. Get the child any needed medical treatment and counseling.

Resources That Could Save A Childs Life

Safety Tips For Kids | Safety Ideas For Parents

In follow up to the the post on "How to Talk to Your Kids About Interpersonal Safety", here are some helpful safety tip for children to practice and some safety ideas for paents to keep in mind.

Safety Tips for Kids

• Know who you are: Teach children their names, addresses, phone numbers, and about using “911”.  Remember to teach them to use the "send" button when using cell phones (important for young kids).

• Know who is a stranger: Define a stranger as anyone the child doesn’t know well. It is important for children to know that people they have seen before are strangers if they do not know them well. And someone can be a stranger even if they look nice or know the child’s name. Tell children not to tell strangers their names or where they live. Do not put a child’s name on the outside of their belongings.

• Use the Buddy System: Teach children to use the “buddy system” and to avoid walking or playing alone outside and in public places.

• Use the yell, run, and tell rule: Teach children to yell, “No,” to run to where there are safe adults, and to tell an adult if they’ve been approached by a stranger. Tell children that yelling and running are better safety ideas than trying to hide.

• Keep a safe distance between yourself and a stranger: Teach children to stay a safe distance (approximately three arm-lengths) away from strangers and strangers cars, even if a stranger seems nice. Teach children to run in the direction opposite from the direction the stranger’s car is traveling. Teach children to walk facing traffic so that they can see if a car stops near them.

• It is all right to fight back: Let children know that if a stranger grabs them, it is okay to yell and fight to get the stranger to let go. Tell them yelling is the most important thing they can do, and to yell “No,” “Help,” or “Help, this is not my parent” to get an adults attention.

• Know about unsafe touches: Teach children the difference between safe and unsafe touches. Ask them to tell you if someone tries to hurt them or touch their private parts, even if that person said it was a secret.

• Home safety: Teach children to keep doors and windows locked when they are home alone, and to go to a neighbor and call 911 if a window is broken or if the door is open when they get home.

• Doorbell safety: Teach children to answer the door by asking, “Who is it?” Tell them to never say that they are alone, and to never open the door when they are alone, unless it is someone their guardian told them to expect and let in. When they are alone, ask them to talk through the door and say, “My parents are busy now, I’ll tell them you stopped by.” Tell children to call 911 immediately if the person will not leave.

• Phone safety: Teach children that is important to never say they are alone when a stranger calls, and to either let the answering machine screen calls or say, “Mom/Dad can’t come to the phone now, can I take a message?” Tell them to hang up if someone is making strange noises, saying scary things, or not saying anything.

• School safety: Encourage schools to establish call-back programs so that if a child does not arrive at school on time, his or her guardians are notified within thirty minutes of when the child was expected.

• Internet safety: Put your child’s computer in the family room, or where you can keep an eye on the screen. Teach children that it is not safe to give their last name, address, or phone number to a person on the Internet, and that it is never safe to meet Internet friends in person without a parent’s supervision and consent.

Safety Ideas for Parents

• Records: It is a good idea to keep the following records of your children in a safe place: any custody papers, current photographs, their height and weight, their description (including scars and birthmarks), dental records, fingerprints, and passports. (Once a passport is issued, it makes it difficult for someone else to get another.)

• Knowledge: Know where your children are after school and on weekends (and online). Know the names and phone numbers of your children’s friends and call to introduce yourself to their parents. Teach children to tell you where they will be and to check in with you when they get there and before they are ready to return home.

• Safe people: Create a short list of safe people that you give permission for your children to go with. Tell them to call you before going anywhere with someone not on the list, even if they say it is an emergency. Abductions by non-custodial parents are more common than stranger abductions. If you are divorced and have sole custody of your children, tell them whether their non-custodial parent is on the safe people list. To reduce the chance of potential family abduction, get a clear custody order that specifies visitation rights clearly, and know the non-custodial parent’s social security number, date of birth, current address, and employment. Some parents create a password with older children so that parents can tell a friend the password if they ask them to pick up their child. This is risky with very young children because they can be tricked into telling the password.

More safety information avaliable at

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to Talk to Children about Interpersonal Safety: A Guide for Parents and Educators

[Written by:  Kirsten Stoutemyer, Ph.D.]  In the United States, there are approximately 797,500 children reported missing each year; and 58,000 of those are the direct result of a child being kidnapped by a non-family member. Parents, educators, and children are not helpless in the face of these statistics. Many children escape abduction attempts because they have learned to use safety strategies and to respond with assertiveness in the face of an attempted abduction. Child Quest developed the Our Kids Are Safe Kids kidnapping prevention program to address the need for children to learn and practice safety strategies.

Being a parent or educator brings joy – and responsibility. It is rewarding, challenging, and sometimes frightening. Each day presents new challenges for educators and parents to invent creative and loving ways to discuss some of life’s more difficult topics. Preparing children to deal effectively with a world in which attempted child abduction and abuse are possibilities requires a team approach involving teachers, parents, community organizations, local politicians, law enforcement, and many others.

Children are more likely to learn safety behaviors if they are given the opportunity to practice what is introduced in Our Kids Are Safe Kids. It is never too early to begin an ongoing conversation with a child about safety. Even preschool children can learn their names, telephone numbers, addresses, and to call 911 in an emergency. School-aged children can learn more complex safety skills. We encourage you to adapt the practice of safety behaviors to the sophistication of the children in your life.

Focusing on Prevention

Among the greatest challenges facing teachers and parents is developing a way to talk to children about interpersonal safety – without scaring them. It frightens children to hear about the horrible things that can happen to them if kidnapped. By the time children are able to read, they have already been exposed to these horror stories on the front pages of magazines at the grocery store, TV shows, and online – so, it is not surprising that they often become terrified of being kidnapped themselves. Learning and practicing safety rules reduces a child’s fear, and results in a child who can assertively use safety behaviors to deal with dangerous interpersonal situations.

We can approach children with the issues of abduction the same way we approach them with issues of fire or earthquake safety. We can assure children that the chances of being kidnapped by a stranger are quite low, and we can teach them some techniques that will keep them safer. By focusing on common-sense abduction prevention strategies, rather than on the horrible things that might happen to them, we increase our children’s ability to deal with dangerous situations and reduce their fears.

Creating Safe Communications

Parents and educators are foremost among the people a child might turn to for help. It is important to lay the groundwork for dialogue about abuse and kidnapping. Parents and teachers can do this with young children by encouraging them to talk about their feelings. Take the time to ask about a child’s day, and about the people they encountered on and/or offline. Ask if there are any problems they are having, and be open to listening. By creating an open dialogue with children – especially about the things that make them scared, embarrassed, or sad – you make it easier for them to tell you about potentially dangerous situations they’ve encountered with other children, teenagers, and adults.

Let your children know that there is a difference between a good secret and a bad secret. A good secret is a secret that is fun to keep, like a surprise party or gift. A “bad secret” is a secret that feels bad to keep, or a secret about a touch – because touches should never be secret. Ask them to inform you if anyone tells them to keep a bad secret, and stress that getting help when they need it doesn’t make them a “tattle tale.”

In order to ensure that a child will disclose sexual abuse if it should occur, it is important that parents and teachers use names for the private parts of a child’s body that do not suggest that private parts are “bad.” If a child thinks that it is not all right to talk about their private parts, they will be less likely to discuss sexual abuse should it occur.

One of the hardest things about creating a supportive atmosphere for communication is allowing a child to say “no” to an unwanted touch or an unwanted invitation – even when we know it is not really dangerous. Children need to be able to say “no” to an unwanted pinch on the cheek without getting in trouble in order to be able to say “no” to assertively dangerous situations.

Teaching Assertiveness

Parents and educators have the power to create a supportive atmosphere for children to practice assertive communication and interpersonal safety. Children can learn to “use their words” at an early age, and can be encouraged to speak in a clear, strong voice rather than whining or screaming. Reinforce assertive communication by complimenting children on the way they worded a request or stated their opinion, even if their request is not one you can grant.

Encourage children to actively think of solutions to everyday problems, and to think out the logical results of those solutions. Helping kids to think through situations, and to consider the pros and cons of different courses of action, will give them a good foundation to build on when faced with a variety of situations, including dangerous ones.


Teach children how to do a safety yell. A safety yell comes from deep in the belly, and is loud. Show them how a safety yell is different than a scream. You might teach them to yell, “No! This is not my parent!”

Struggling can increase a child’s chance of escape in an abduction situation, and there are some physical self-defense techniques that children can use successfully, despite their small size. If you decide to introduce your child to self-defense, contact a local self-defense organization to find a class appropriate for children. It is important to talk with children about when it is appropriate to use self-defense techniques.

Having Clearly Stated Rules

It is important that parents and teachers clearly state their safety rules both on and offline. Take the time to talk with children regularly about what your safety rules are whether it be walking home from school or surfing the net. Let them know who can pick them up from school or activities, explain how they are expected to check in with you, and what your family guidelines are for using the Internet and social media responsibly. Older children can handle more complexity in safety rules than young children. Your rules will depend in part on a child’s age – and in part on your values. What is important is that your children know what your safety rules are.

More prevention education programs and safety information at

Thursday, June 2, 2011

June is Internet Safety Month!

Keeping Kids Safer on the Internet: Tips for Parents and Guardians
[Source: national Center For Missing Children]

Allowing kids to go online without supervision or ground rules is like allowing them to explore a major metropolitan area by themselves. The Internet, like a city, offers an enormous array of entertainment and educational resources but also presents some potential risks. Kids need help navigating this world.

Where Do Kids Connect?
  • Kids go online almost anywhere. They surf the Internet and send messages from a home computer or one at a friend’s home, library, or school. 
  • Kids connect at coffee shops and other “hotspots” using laptops and wireless connections. 
  • Internet-enabled, video-game systems allow them to compete against and chat with players around the world. 
  • Wireless devices enable kids to surf the Web and exchange messages, photographs, and short videos from just about anywhere.

You can’t watch your kids every minute, but you do need to use strategies to help them benefit from the Internet and avoid its potential risks.  By exploring the Internet with your kids, you greatly expand its capacity as an educational tool. By providing guidance and discussion along the way, you increase kids’ online skills and confidence along with their ability to avoid potential risks. And you might be surprised by what kids teach you at the same time.

You can't take it back...think before you type.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC) urges you to do one of the single most important things to promote safety — begin a dialogue with your kids about the rewards and potential risks of Internet use. We also encourage you to visit the NetSmartz® Workshop at and NetSmartz411sm at or call 1-888-NETS411 (638-7411) to learn more about about online safety.

It’s up to parents and guardians to assess the potential risks and benefits of permitting their kids to use the wide range of Internet websites and applications available. This brochure provides a list of the most popular online activities for kids along with the strategies for and benefits of reducing the potential risks associated with those activities.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 23 percent of nursery school children in the United States use the Internet, 32 percent of kindergartners go online, and by high school 80 percent of children use the Internet.

Browsing the Internet

Benefits - Browsing the Internet is like having the world’s largest library and entertainment system at your fingertips. Kids are able to read stories, tour museums, visit other countries, play games, look at photographs, shop, and do research to help with homework.

Potential Risks - Kids may come across websites containing adult images or demeaning, racist, sexist, violent, or false information.  It is hard for kids to distinguish reliable sources of information from less reliable ones. Some believe because information is posted online it must be true.

Tips to Minimize Potential Risks
  • Choose search engines carefully. Some are specifically designed for kids, and others offer kid-safe options.
  • Tell kids when they come across any material making them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused to immediately tell you or another trusted adult.
  • Help kids find information online. By searching the Internet together you help them find reliable sources of information and distinguish fact from fiction.
Many Internet service providers (ISPs) offer filters to prevent kids from accessing inappropriate websites. Contact your ISP about what safe-search options they offer. Remember, as a consumer you have a right to choose an ISP with the services meeting your family’s needs.

Using E-mail

Benefits - Adults and kids use e-mail to communicate rapidly and cost-effectively with people all over the world. E-mail transmits messages, documents, and photographs to others in a matter of seconds or minutes.

Potential Risks - Kids are able to set up private accounts through free Web-based, e-mail services without asking permission from parents or guardians.  Anyone using e-mail is vulnerable to receiving “spam,” messages from people or companies encouraging recipients to buy something, do something, or visit a particular website. Spam may be sexually suggestive or offensive in other ways.  Senders sometimes disguise themselves, pretending to be someone else — a friend or acquaintance, a well-known bank, a government agency — for illicit purposes. This is known as phishing.

Tips to Minimize Potential Risks
  • Talk with your kids about their e-mail accounts, and discuss the potential risks involved. Remind them to never share passwords with anyone but you, not even their closest friends.
  • Before you sign up with a service provider, research the effectiveness of its spam filters. You may also purchase spam-filter software separately.
  • Teach kids not to open spam or e-mails from people they don’t know in person. Remind them not to respond to any online communication in a sexually provocative way. Ask them to show you suspicious communications.
  • If your kids receive e-mail containing threats or material making them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused, report it to your service provider. Your provider ’s address is usually found on their home page.
Instant Messsaging

Benefits - Instant Messaging (IM) allows adults and kids to have conversations in “real time” through their computer. IMing is particularly appealing to kids who use abbreviated lingo to communicate with each other. Most IM services offer a feature showing a user’s contacts, known as a “buddy list,” which tells the user whether a “buddy” is online and available to chat.

Potential Risks - IM is one method used to cyberbully, harass, or intimidate others. It may also be used to engage kids in a sexually explicit conversation. IM interactions may go from an innocent conversation to a sexually explicit or otherwise inappropriate exchange without warning.

Tips to Minimize Potential Risks
  • Remind kids to IM only people they know in real life and who have been approved by you.
  • Use privacy settings to limit contact to only those on your child’s buddy list. Make sure other users cannot search for your child by his or her e-mail address and username.
  • Make sure both your kids and you are familiar with the blocking features available on most IM services. Tell your kids to block any sender they don’t know who IMs them.
  • Take the time to learn the online lingo used by kids so you understand what they are talking about with each other.
  • What’s a P911? It’s shorthand for “parent alert” — a code some kids use to let others know a parent or guardian is watching. If you have trouble translating your kids’ online “lingo,” visit There you’ll find a list of popular terms and abbreviations used in IM and chatrooms.
Social Networking

Benefits - Social-networking websites allow kids to connect with their friends and other users with similar interests. Kids socialize and express themselves by exchanging instant messages, e-mails, or comments and posting photographs, creative writing, artwork, videos, and music to their blogs and personal profiles.
  • Some 55% of online teens have profiles on a social-networking website such as Facebook or MySpace.
  • A survey of 10 to 17 year olds revealed 34% had posted their real names, telephone numbers, home addresses, or the names of their schools online where anyone could see; 45% had posted their dates of birth or ages; and 18% had posted pictures of themselves.3
Potential Risks - Some websites and services ask users to post a “profile” with their age, sex, hobbies, and interests. While these profiles help kids “connect” and share common interests, potential exploiters may pretend to be someone else and can and do use these profiles to search for victims.  Kids sometimes compete to see who has the greatest number of contacts and will add new members to their lists even if they don’t know them in person.

Kids can’t “take back” the online text and images they’ve entered. Kids may post information and images that are provocative and inappropriate. Once online, “chat” as well as other Web postings become public information. Anything posted online may be saved and forwarded to an unlimited number of users. Remind kids once images are posted they lose control of them and can never get them back.

Kids have been reprimanded by their school administrators and families; denied entry into schools; and even not hired because of dangerous, demeaning, or harmful information found on their personal websites or blogs.

Tips to Minimize Potential Risks
  • Urge kids to use privacy settings to restrict access to profiles so only those on their contact lists are able to view them.
  • Remind kids to only add people they know in person to their contact lists. location.
  • Encourage them to choose appropriate screennames or nicknames—such as those that refer to sports and interests, but are not sexual, violent, or offensive. Make sure the name doesn't include information revealing their identity or location.
  • Visit social-networking websites with your kids, and exchange ideas about what you think is safe and unsafe.
  • Ask your kids about the people they are communicating with online.
  • Insist your kids never give out personal information or arrange to meet in person with someone they’ve met online without first checking with you.
  • Encourage your kids to think before typing, “Is this message hurtful or rude?” Also urge your kids not to respond to any rude or harassing messages or ones making them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused. Have them show you such messages.
Cellular Telephones/Wireless Devices and Texting

Benefits - Many parents and guardians look at cellular telephones as a necessity for their kids. It is reassuring to know they may reach you or call for help in an emergency. Cellular telephones/wireless devices may also be used to send text messages, images, and videos.

Potential Risks - Cellular telephones make it easy for kids to communicate with others without their parents’ or guardians’ knowledge.  Kids are increasingly using cellular telephones/wireless devices to take sexually explicit photographs of themselves and send them to their friends. Once these photographs are sent, there is no way of getting them back. In some instances children have been prosecuted for production of child pornography for taking these pictures.

Kids may also take embarrassing or revealing photographs of others and post them to the Internet, leaving victims few options to defend or protect themselves from this form of bullying.

Tips to Minimize Potential Risks
  • Create rules about the appropriate use of cellular telephones/wireless devices and set limits, including who your kids may communicate with and when they may use their cellular telephones/wireless devices.
  • Review cellular-telephone/wireless-device records for any unknown numbers and late-night telephone calls.
  • Teach your kids to never post their cellular telephone number anywhere online
  • Talk to your kids about the possible implications of sending sexually explicit or provocative images of themselves or others.
  • Think about removing the Internet features from your kid’s cellular telephone/wireless device through your service provider or consider creating settings to control or prohibit access to the Internet, e-mail, or text messaging.
Posting Video and Photographs Online

Benefits - Webcams, cellular telephones, and digital cameras allow kids to post videos, photograhs, and audio files online and engage in video conversations. Kids often use this equipment to see each other as they IM and chat.  Webcams are often used to help kids stay in touch with family members and friends including traveling parents and guardians and those living in other areas.

Potential Risks - Webcam sessions and photographs may be easily captured and saved, and users may continue to circulate those images online. In some cases people believed they were interacting with trusted friends but later found their images were distributed to others or posted on websites.

Capturing, sending and posting sexually provocative and inappropriate images may lead to legal implications and other unexpected offline consequences.

Tips to Minimize Potential Risks
  • Kids should use webcams or post photographs online only with your knowledge and supervision.
  • Remind your kids to ask themselves if they would be embarrassed if their friends or family saw the pictures or videos they post online. If the answer is yes, then they need to stop.
  • Remind kids to be aware of what is in the camera’s field of vision and remember to turn the camera off when it is not in use.
  • Caution kids about posting identity-revealing or sexually provocative photographs. Don’t allow them to post photographs of others — even their friends — without permission from their friends’ parents or guardians. Remind them once such images are posted they lose control of them and can never get them back.
Online Gaming

Benefits - Online gaming involves playing a game over a computer network, often on the Internet, or Internet-enabled game console. Online gaming allows kids to engage with and challenge players from around the world. Many online games have text, chatroom, or IM functions, allowing players to communicate as a group or in private. Some even allow users to speak directly to each other using voice-enabled headphones. In addition online games often have associated online communities for players to share experiences and strategies. In many ways online games and gaming communities serve as a forum for social networking.

Potential Risks - There is never any guarantee your kid is communicating with other kids, those they know in person, or those approved by you.  As with IM or social-networking websites, kids may be exposed to inappropriate language, harassed, threatened, or asked sexually explicit questions

Tips to Minimize Potential Risks
  • Keep the gaming console and computer in a common area of the home so you are able to more easily supervise
  • Set rules, including how long your kids may play, who they are allowed to play with, and what types of games are appropriate
  • Check out rating systems to help you decide which games to allow in your home
  • Look into what types of protections or parental controls the gaming console allows and make use of them
  • Other Ways to Enhance Kids' Online Safety Skills
  • Begin a Dialogue With Your Kids About Internet Use
Because we use the Internet in different ways, kids and adults may learn from each other. By talking about Internet use with your kids, you are opening the door to discussing the important issues of personal safety and helping them engage in responsible behavior. Use this brochure as a starting point, or visit to find safety resources for both kids and adults.

Consider Rating, Blocking, Monitoring, and Filtering Applications for Your Computer

Software and services are available to help parents and guardians set limits on kids’ Internet use. Most computer-operating systems have optional filters allowing parents and guardians to block websites they consider inappropriate. Some services rate websites for content. Some programs prevent users from entering information such as names and addresses, and others keep kids away from chatrooms or restrict their ability to send or read e-mail. Monitoring programs allow you to see where your kids go online. But remember these programs and services don’t develop kids’ own sense of safety, and they are not substitutes for parental/ guardian communication, supervision, and involvement.

Make Internet Use a Family Activity While Encouraging Critical Thinking

By setting aside time to go online with your kids you not only become more aware of what they do online, you reinforce positive Internet skills. Helping your kids with a research project is a great opportunity for them to learn about and distinguish which websites provide reliable information, are simply someone’s opinion, and are to be avoided entirely. And when looking at e-mails together ask, “Are these people who they seem to be?” These are prime opportunities to help kids develop their critical-thinking skills.

Set Reasonable Rules

Work with your kids to develop reasonable rules. Consider setting rules about the time of day, length of time, people they may communicate with, and appropriate areas for them to visit while online. Also explain to your kids why these rules are important.

Encourage Your Kids to Go to You When They Encounter Problems Online

It’s important to reassure kids if they encounter problems online or view something disturbing, it’s not their fault. Discussing these issues openly may reduce their fear of going to you if they encounter something online making them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused. Be a resource. Let them know if they share the experience with you, you will try to help, not punish, them. At the same time help them understand what happened and avoid similar situations in the future.

Online Resources for Families

NetSmartz® Workshop - The NetSmartz Workshop is an online, educational resource for kids of all ages and their trusted adults to help foster positive choices when on the Internet and in the real world.

The NetSmartz program is designed to be used in homes, schools, and communities. It provides parents, guardians, educators, community leaders, and law-enforcement officials with a wide variety of resources including activities, games, presentations, safety pledges, and videos. These resources help trusted adults build kids’ safety awareness, prevent their victimization, and increase their self-confidence on- and offline.

The NetSmartz Workshop is a leader in safety education for youth, parents and guardians, and educators. The program was created to spearhead a movement toward safer and more responsible use of the Internet by kids and teens. Download the free resources at

NetSmartz411 - NetSmartz411 is a free, first-of-its-kind service provided by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and funded by the Qwest Foundation. It was designed to raise Internet-safety awareness and provides general information about computers and the Web.

Parents, guardians, and educators are able to find this resource at The website contains a searchable knowledgebase of frequently asked questions regarding computers and the Internet, along with the opportunity to ask questions of experts. Questions may be submitted via the website anytime or called into experts at 1-888-NETS411 (638-7411), Monday through Friday, from Noon to 8:00 p.m., EST.

CyberTipline - Visit or call 1-800-843-5678 to report the sexual exploitation of children on- and offline. The CyberTipline accepts information about the possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography; online enticement of children for sexual acts; child victims of prostitution; sex tourism involving children; extrafamilial child sexual molestation; unsolicited obscene material sent to a child; misleading domain names, and misleading words or digital images on the Internet. Your information will be forwarded to law enforcement and Internt Service Provider(s) for investigation and review when appropriate.

Don't Believe the Type - Created by the Ad Council and NCMEC, “Don’t Believe the Type,” is part of a public-service campaign specifically designed to help teens recognize the dangers of the Internet, situations to avoid, and how to “surf safer.” Visit, and click on the “Don’t Believe the Type” link to view the website.

Think Before You Post - A part of NCMEC’s Ad Council public-service campaign, “Think Before You Post” is a public-service campaign warning kids about the dangers of posting inappropriate pictures and videos of themselves online. Visit and click on the “Think Before You Post” link to view the website.

Tips for Parents and Guardians
  • Begin a dialogue with your kids about safe Internet use and supervise their online activities
  • Consider rating, blocking, monitoring, and filtering applications for your computer
  • Make Internet use a family activity
  • Encourage your kids’ critical-thinking skills
  • Set reasonable rules for going online
  • Encourage your kids to tell you when they encounter problems online
If they come across lewd, obscene, or illegal material or if they are contacted by someone who attempts to engage them in sexual conversation, make a report to NCMEC’s CyberTipline at or 1-800-843-5678

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The FBI's Parent Guide to Internet Safety

Worldwide On The Web [Source]:  While on-line computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for children, expanding their horizons and exposing them to different cultures and ways of life, they can be exposed to dangers as they hit the road exploring the information highway. There are individuals who attempt to sexually exploit children through the use of on-line services and the Internet. Some of these individuals gradually seduce their targets through the use of attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts. These individuals are often willing to devote considerable amounts of time, money, and energy in this process. They listen to and empathize with the problems of children. They will be aware of the latest music, hobbies, and interests of children. These individuals attempt to gradually lower children's inhibitions by slowly introducing sexual context and content into their conversations.

There are other individuals, however, who immediately engage in sexually explicit conversation with children. Some offenders primarily collect and trade child-pornographic images, while others seek face-to-face meetings with children via on-line contacts. It is important for parents to understand that children can be indirectly victimized through conversation, i.e. "chat," as well as the transfer of sexually explicit information and material. Computer-sex offenders may also be evaluating children they come in contact with on-line for future face-to-face contact and direct victimization. Parents and children should remember that a computer-sex offender can be any age or sex the person does not have to fit the caricature of a dirty, unkempt, older man wearing a raincoat to be someone who could harm a child.

Children, especially adolescents, are sometimes interested in and curious about sexuality and sexually explicit material. They may be moving away from the total control of parents and seeking to establish new relationships outside their family. Because they may be curious, children/adolescents sometimes use their on-line access to actively seek out such materials and individuals. Sex offenders targeting children will use and exploit these characteristics and needs. Some adolescent children may also be attracted to and lured by on-line offenders closer to their age who, although not technically child molesters, may be dangerous. Nevertheless, they have been seduced and manipulated by a clever offender and do not fully understand or recognize the potential danger of these contacts.

This guide was prepared from actual investigations involving child victims, as well as investigations where law enforcement officers posed as children. Further information on protecting your child on-line may be found in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Child Safety on the Information Highway and Teen Safety on the Information Highway pamphlets.

What Are Signs That Your Child Might Be At Risk On-line?

Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.

Most children that fall victim to computer-sex offenders spend large amounts of time on-line, particularly in chat rooms. They may go on-line after dinner and on the weekends. They may be latchkey kids whose parents have told them to stay at home after school. They go on-line to chat with friends, make new friends, pass time, and sometimes look for sexually explicit information. While much of the knowledge and experience gained may be valuable, parents should consider monitoring the amount of time spent on-line.

Children on-line are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. While offenders are on-line around the clock, most work during the day and spend their evenings on-line trying to locate and lure children or seeking pornography.

You find pornography on your child's computer.

Pornography is often used in the sexual victimization of children. Sex offenders often supply their potential victims with pornography as a means of opening sexual discussions and for seduction. Child pornography may be used to show the child victim that sex between children and adults is "normal." Parents should be conscious of the fact that a child may hide the pornographic files on diskettes from them. This may be especially true if the computer is used by other family members.

Your child receives phone calls from men you don't know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don't recognize. 

While talking to a child victim on-line is a thrill for a computer-sex offender, it can be very cumbersome. Most want to talk to the children on the telephone. They often engage in "phone sex" with the children and often seek to set up an actual meeting for real sex.

While a child may be hesitant to give out his/her home phone number, the computer-sex offenders will give out theirs. With Caller ID, they can readily find out the child's phone number. Some computer-sex offenders have even obtained toll-free 800 numbers, so that their potential victims can call them without their parents finding out. Others will tell the child to call collect. Both of these methods result in the computer-sex offender being able to find out the child's phone number.

Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don't know. 

As part of the seduction process, it is common for offenders to send letters, photographs, and all manner of gifts to their potential victims. Computer-sex offenders have even sent plane tickets in order for the child to travel across the country to meet them.

Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.

A child looking at pornographic images or having sexually explicit conversations does not want you to see it on the screen.

Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.

Computer-sex offenders will work very hard at driving a wedge between a child and their family or at exploiting their relationship. They will accentuate any minor problems at home that the child might have. Children may also become withdrawn after sexual victimization.

Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.

Even if you don't subscribe to an on-line service or Internet service, your child may meet an offender while on-line at a friend's house or the library. Most computers come preloaded with on-line and/or Internet software. Computer-sex offenders will sometimes provide potential victims with a computer account for communications with them.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Communicating With A Sexual Predator Online?

■  Consider talking openly with your child about your suspicions. Tell them about the dangers of computer-sex offenders.

■  Review what is on your child's computer. If you don't know how, ask a friend, coworker, relative, or other knowledgeable person. Pornography or any kind of sexual communication can be a warning sign.

■  Use the Caller ID service to determine who is calling your child. Most telephone companies that offer Caller ID also offer a service that allows you to block your number from appearing on someone else's Caller ID. Telephone companies also offer an additional service feature that rejects incoming calls that you block. This rejection feature prevents computer-sex offenders or anyone else from calling your home anonymously.

■  Devices can be purchased that show telephone numbers that have been dialed from your home phone. Additionally, the last number called from your home phone can be retrieved provided that the telephone is equipped with a redial feature. You will also need a telephone pager to complete this retrieval.

■  This is done using a numeric-display pager and another phone that is on the same line as the first phone with the redial feature. Using the two phones and the pager, a call is placed from the second phone to the pager. When the paging terminal beeps for you to enter a telephone number, you press the redial button on the first (or suspect) phone. The last number called from that phone will then be displayed on the pager.

■  Monitor your child's access to all types of live electronic communications (i.e., chat rooms, instant messages, Internet Relay Chat, etc.), and monitor your child's e-mail. Computer-sex offenders almost always meet potential victims via chat rooms. After meeting a child on-line, they will continue to communicate electronically often via e-mail.

Should any of the following situations arise in your household, via the Internet or on-line service, you should immediately contact your local or state law enforcement agency, the FBI, and the CyberTipline:

1.Your child or anyone in the household has received child pornography;

2.Your child has been sexually solicited by someone who knows that your child is under 18 years of age;

3.Your child has received sexually explicit images from someone that knows your child is under the age of 18.

If one of these scenarios occurs, keep the computer turned off in order to preserve any evidence for future law enforcement use. Unless directed to do so by the law enforcement agency, you should not attempt to copy any of the images and/or text found on the computer.

What Can You Do To Minimize The Chances Of An On-line Exploiter Victimizing Your Child?

■  Communicate, and talk to your child about sexual victimization and potential on-line danger.

■  Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.

■  Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child's bedroom. It is much more difficult for a computer-sex offender to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to a parent or another member of the household.

■  Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software. While electronic chat can be a great place for children to make new friends and discuss various topics of interest, it is also prowled by computer-sex offenders. Use of chat rooms, in particular, should be heavily monitored. While parents should utilize these mechanisms, they should not totally rely on them.

■  Always maintain access to your child's on-line account and randomly check his/her e-mail. Be aware that your child could be contacted through the U.S. Mail. Be up front with your child about your access and reasons why.

■  Teach your child the responsible use of the resources on-line. There is much more to the on-line experience than chat rooms.

■  Find out what computer safeguards are utilized by your child's school, the public library, and at the homes of your child's friends. These are all places, outside your normal supervision, where your child could encounter an on-line predator.

■  Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation, that he/she is not at fault and is the victim. The offender always bears the complete responsibility for his or her actions.

Instruct your children:

■  to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line;

■  to never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or on-line service to people they do not personally know;

■  to never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number;

■  to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images;

■  to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing;

■  that whatever they are told on-line may or may not be true.

Frequently Asked Questions:

My child has received an e-mail advertising for a pornographic website, what should I do?

Generally, advertising for an adult, pornographic website that is sent to an e-mail address does not violate federal law or the current laws of most states. In some states it may be a violation of law if the sender knows the recipient is under the age of 18. Such advertising can be reported to your service provider and, if known, the service provider of the originator. It can also be reported to your state and federal legislators, so they can be made aware of the extent of the problem.

Is any service safer than the others?

Sex offenders have contacted children via most of the major on-line services and the Internet. The most important factors in keeping your child safe on-line are the utilization of appropriate blocking software and/or parental controls, along with open, honest discussions with your child, monitoring his/her on-line activity, and following the tips in this pamphlet.

Should I just forbid my child from going on-line?

There are dangers in every part of our society. By educating your children to these dangers and taking appropriate steps to protect them, they can benefit from the wealth of information now available on-line.

Helpful Definitions:

Internet - An immense, global network that connects computers via telephone lines and/or fiber networks to storehouses of electronic information. With only a computer, a modem, a telephone line and a service provider, people from all over the world can communicate and share information with little more than a few keystrokes.

Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) - Electronic networks of computers that are connected by a central computer setup and operated by a system administrator or operator and are distinguishable from the Internet by their "dial-up" accessibility. BBS users link their individual computers to the central BBS computer by a modem which allows them to post messages, read messages left by others, trade information, or hold direct conversations. Access to a BBS can, and often is, privileged and limited to those users who have access privileges granted by the systems operator.

Commercial On-line Service (COS) - Examples of COSs are America Online, Prodigy, CompuServe and Microsoft Network, which provide access to their service for a fee. COSs generally offer limited access to the Internet as part of their total service package.

Internet Service Provider (ISP) - Examples of ISPs are Erols, Concentric and Netcom. These services offer direct, full access to the Internet at a flat, monthly rate and often provide electronic-mail service for their customers. ISPs often provide space on their servers for their customers to maintain World Wide Web (WWW) sites. Not all ISPs are commercial enterprises. Educational, governmental and nonprofit organizations also provide Internet access to their members.

Public Chat Rooms - Created, maintained, listed and monitored by the COS and other public domain systems such as Internet Relay Chat. A number of customers can be in the public chat rooms at any given time, which are monitored for illegal activity and even appropriate language by systems operators (SYSOP). Some public chat rooms are monitored more frequently than others, depending on the COS and the type of chat room. Violators can be reported to the administrators of the system (at America On-line they are referred to as terms of service [TOS]) which can revoke user privileges. The public chat rooms usually cover a broad range of topics such as entertainment, sports, game rooms, children only, etc.

Electronic Mail (E-Mail) - A function of BBSs, COSs and ISPs which provides for the transmission of messages and files between computers over a communications network similar to mailing a letter via the postal service. E-mail is stored on a server, where it will remain until the addressee retrieves it. Anonymity can be maintained by the sender by predetermining what the receiver will see as the "from" address. Another way to conceal one's identity is to use an "anonymous remailer," which is a service that allows the user to send an e-mail message repackaged under the remailer's own header, stripping off the originator's name completely.

Chat - Real-time text conversation between users in a chat room with no expectation of privacy. All chat conversation is accessible by all individuals in the chat room while the conversation is taking place.

Instant Messages - Private, real-time text conversation between two users in a chat room.

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) - Real-time text conversation similar to public and/or private chat rooms on COS.

Usenet (Newsgroups) - Like a giant, cork bulletin board where users post messages and information. Each posting is like an open letter and is capable of having attachments, such as graphic image files (GIFs). Anyone accessing the newsgroup can read the postings, take copies of posted items, or post responses. Each newsgroup can hold thousands of postings. Currently, there are over 29,000 public newsgroups and that number is growing daily. Newsgroups are both public and/or private. There is no listing of private newsgroups. A user of private newsgroups has to be invited into the newsgroup and be provided with the newsgroup's address.