The arrest of a Lauderdale County school teacher on sex charges is shining the light on the problem of cyber crime. The Internet can be a good thing, but how can you help protect your child from Internet predators?
"I can think with my own children the use of being able to go their textbook and pull up additional math work, for example," said Lauderdale County Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun. "There's a dark side to the Internet and a dangerous side where people can get hooked into pornography and can do social networking sites where children sometimes present themselves as a different person."
Children may be the easiest to victimize on the Internet. As a parent, there are things you can do to help keep your children from being victims of crimes that start there.
Problems often arise from social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace among others. It's easy for kids to come across people they don't know.
Make sure you know where your kids are going on the Web. Check out the sites they visit frequently, and keep an eye on whom they are communicating.
"Many cases that are brought to law enforcement's attention are done through the use of the parent having been viewing and keeping up with what their young person is doing on the Internet," Calhoun said.
There are some warning signs to watch out for such as changes in behavior, a decrease in academic performance, mail or gifts from people you do not know, phone calls to and from numbers you don't know, and an increase in the amount of time spent online, especially at night. They may even turn off the computer or change the screen when you are nearby.
"The thing about the Internet is it appears to be so anonymous, but it's really not," said Calhoun. "Many people think that the things they put there are only going to be seen by one individual, and that's not the case."
Here are a few other warning signs, courtesy of the Mississippi Attorney General's Office, that may be causes for concern. If your child:
Spends large amounts of time on the Internet
Has questionable pictures
Gets calls from strangers