Internet predators became Toure Cone’s biggest concern as a mother of two after her daughter told her of the inappropriate content of an online chat in which she participated. Knowing her children are sometimes naive about the dangers on the Internet, Cone took 10-year-old Aaron and 12-year-old Aliyah to Internet Safety Night on Tuesday at Smithton Middle school.
Sponsored by the Missouri Research and Education Network, the event featured guest speaker Glendale police Sgt. Joe Laramie of the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Through a Powerpoint presentation, Laramie informed parents, teachers and children about the risks children face on the Internet, such as exposure to inappropriate material and theft of personal information.
Fifteen schools in the Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas area were connected to the event via video.
Cone, who prohibits her children from chatting online, found the presentation empowering.
“You know law enforcement is there, but to hear it first-hand gave me hope that someone is looking out for my kids besides me,” Cone said.
Those who attended the event could also have questions answered by an expert panel that included Columbia police Detective Andy Anderson of the Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force. Anderson highlighted the importance of letting law enforcement investigate and decide whether an inappropriate incident has occurred.
“We are all afraid of getting someone in trouble that may not have done something wrong,” Anderson said. “But it’s just as important to determine nothing happened than to not report it at all.”
The Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force, created in January, has arrested four people within the last 35 days for soliciting children on the Internet, Anderson said. The task force learned that teamwork between law enforcement, school officials and parents is what leads to these results, he said.