Sheriff’s office warns parents of online dangers for children
The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office is reminding parents to be vigilant about what their children are doing, and who they are interacting with online this summer. The internet provides a new source of “stranger danger.”
“We are in a new era where your children can meet strangers without leaving your home,” said Sheriff Grady Hartman. “Whether your child is playing video games or simply visiting Facebook or other apps on their cellular phone, they can encounter predators looking to create a relationship with them and then meet them.”
Oneida County has put special focus on internet crime against children this year, and in the first five months of 2019, the department has intervened in at least a dozen incidents where children under the age of 18 were the intended victim of an adult who wanted to take the child to a secluded place and have sexual contact with them, Hartman said.
“Before the actual meeting occurs, the predator has shared nude photos with the child and asked the child to share nude photos,” the sheriff explained. “Predators have come from hours away to Oneida County to have contact with children. In several cases, predators have disguised their identity by sending pictures of someone else.”
These encounters, he said, were stopped by the Sheriff’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children team, adding that another emerging crime is predators blackmailing children. Predators begin a relationship with children and then convince the child to send a nude photo of him or herself. Once they have the photo, the predator gets the child to send more photos, threatening to post the photo publicly. The team has also found children on adult sites posing as adults in effort to meet adults for sexual contact.
Hartman said the department cannot intervene in all cases, and he gives parents a few suggestions to stay active in their child’s online activity.
- Speak with children about internet safety. Children must understand that once they share a photo of themselves, it can never be retrieved. Children must also be aware that they can never truly know who they are chatting with as predators often hide their true identities.
- Monitor cell phones, tablets, computers and video game systems. Parents should know passwords and be able to access all areas of these devices. If a parent finds an app they are unaware of, they should look through it.
- Contact law enforcement if anything is concerning.
The Wisconsin Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Department of Public Instruction have created an online resource that can educate parents about internet safety, which can be found at https://dpi.wi.gov/internet-safety/new-interactive-safety-resource-available.