Acting Attorney General Peter Nickles announced today significant efforts to protect the District’s children against internet predators and online exploitation. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) have joined forces to provide presentations on Internet safety and awareness to District of Columbia school children and their parents. The presentations are part of the nationwide Department of Justice Project Safe Childhood initiative, launched in 2006, that aims to combat the proliferation of technology-facilitated sexual exploitation crimes against children.
“The protection of District children from internet predators is paramount,” said Attorney General Nickles. “This partnership with the United States Attorney’s Office allows us to increase the number of available trained volunteers and to raise awareness about the program.”
Project Safe Childhood is implemented through presentations filled with useful tips, rules and guidelines designed to empower children and give them the self-confidence to navigate the internet safely, as well as contact information for them to use if they believe that they or other children are in danger. USAO will train all volunteers for the presentations. Volunteers will include representatives from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and the Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) Internet Crimes Against Children Unit. OAG will coordinate scheduling presentations in schools with DCPS. Representatives from NETSMARTZ, an Internet educational resource from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, will also participate.
Depending on the age level, each presentation is approximately 20-30 minutes long. For the younger children, the presenters use 3-D animation and interactive games to teach them about internet safety. The children sign an internet safety pledge card, which they can take home. For the preteens and teens, the presentations include accounts from children who have encountered online dangers as well as success stories from teens who avoided them.
Volunteers will begin signing up for the first training session on October 23 with a goal to have volunteers in the District schools by the end of October. USAO has conducted these presentations in the past but with a limited number of trained volunteers. This partnership between OAG and USAO will significantly expand the reach of the program.
Volunteers will receive an overview of current internet issues concerning children and will be trained on age-specific presentations for children in kindergarten through high school.
“While the MPD/FBI DC Crimes Against Children Task Force has been successful in investigating and prosecuting many online predators, we recognize that law enforcement alone cannot keep children safe on the Internet,” said US Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor. “Such efforts should include a partnership with the community which is why we are excited to join the District of Columbia’s Office of the Attorney General, the Metropolitan Police Department, and the District of Columbia Schools in this important initiative to educate parents and children on Internet safety.”
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), more than 30 million children in the United States use the Internet. While the Internet provides incredible opportunities for students of all ages to explore the world, play games, research, and socialize, it can be a dangerous place for those who have not learned to use it safely.