Online safety classes to be offered

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Parents to learn about protecting children from digital threats

The Lawrence County Sheriff's Office and the Monett Branch of the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library have teamed up to offer an online safety course for parents.

"In this digital age, we need to do everything we can to protect our children form online predators," said Sheriff Brad DeLay. "This course will offer information to parents on social media networking, cyber-bullying, impersonation, identity theft, sexting and more."

The Parent's Guide to Internet Safety, presented by Reserve Deputy J. J. Goulbourne, will also present information on sexual predators, human trafficking, digital reputation management, pornography and other high risk behaviors.

"With phones, tablets and the Internet, there are so many ways predators can reach out to a child," DeLay said. "These people are sick, demented and a danger to our children."

DeLay said there were at least two instances in recent memory concerning children and online predators. One included an incident in Miller, where a 12-year-old girl was using several different social media accounts and, with one, had communicated with a 47-year-old St. Louis man.

"She made arrangements to meet him and things went from there," DeLay said. "This was not random. It was pre-planned on both their parts."

The perpetrator remains in federal custody awaiting trial.

"This is a very real thing," DeLay said. "Things worked out for her very well and she was brought home safely. But there are a lot of close calls out there."

The second involved a minor being contacted by an individual on his Facebook account. Investigators took the account over and the individual made arrangements to meet who he thought was the minor for sexual intercourse. When he arrived at the pre-arranged meeting location, he was immediately arrested.

The perpetrator is serving over 19 years in federal prison for using the Internet in an attempt to induce a minor under the age of 14 to engage in illicit sexual activity.

"Kids are just naive about these things," DeLay said. "They think they are too mature to let bad stuff happen, but online predators are dangerous. They want only one thing -- sexual gratification -- and they will commit bodily harm or even kill a victim to get it."

The course will offer parents the tools and resources to help them properly supervise their children online.

Discussion topics include a general overview of how to evaluate information on the Internet, tips for using public wi-fi networks, protecting a child's privacy online, child identity theft, video games, social media, cyberbullying, mobile phones, texting and sexting, apps to watch out for and avoid, computer safety, and parental control tools.

The first class will be held from 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, at the Monett Police Department meeting room; 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, at the Shell Knob Branch Library; 3:30-5:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 21, at the Marionville Branch Library; and from 9-11 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 23, at the Cassville Branch Library.

Classes are presented in cooperation with the Barry-Lawrence County Regional Library and the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department. Additional class can be scheduled at other locations by calling the Monett Branch Library at 417-235-6646.

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