Parents and educators received valuable information on how to prevent children from becoming cyber-predators and cyber-victims during a program at the education and medical campus of Behavioral Health Associates in Weissport on Wednesday.
The free seminar was part of a county-wide anti-bullying initiative presented by Behavioral Health Associates, a non-profit healthcare foundation.
Delivering a powerful two-part presentation was Janene Holter, a law enforcement officer attached to the Office of the Attorney General – Bureau of Investigative Services, Education, and Outreach Division.
Prior to her current assignment, Holter worked for 10 years with the Bureau of Narcotics Investigation and Drug Control.
Holter devoted the first part of her presentation to an overview of the Internet, social networking sites, and Internet games. She also discussed cell phone use and the legal ramifications of teen "sexting."
According to Holter, sexual predators have gone from cruising around schools to surfing the internet in search of young victims. Her audience saw how sexual predators gain access to children and brainwash victims.
In a brochure from Attorney General's office, Holter presented some alarming statistics:
Ÿ 79 percent of teens say they aren't careful enough when giving out personal information online.
Ÿ 64 percent of teens say they do things online that they wouldn't want their parents to know about.
Ÿ 1 in 5 children are sexually solicited online and only 25 percent of them tell a parent.
Ÿ 89 percent of sexual solicitations occur in chat rooms or instant messaging.
Ÿ 100,000 websites offer child pornography and child pornography annual revenue is $3 billion.
Holter suggested that parents keep a computer in a common area and monitor children's online activity including social media pages. She also advised parents to talk with their children about online profiles and explained to the audience how a student was denied admission to a college because of a social media profile.
The second part of the seminar dealt with cyber bullying. Through the use of a real life story Holter showed how one online cyber-bullying episode ended in a teen taking his life. She talked about local cyber-bullying incidents and what parents and educators can do to curb the growing cyber-bullying trend.
Dr. Helene Katz, a licensed staff psychologist with Behavioral Health Associates and key organizer of BHA's county-wide anti-bullying initiative, also took part in the seminar.
Katz plans to schedule a follow-up encore presentation with Holter in the fall.