Local Church Talks About the Internet & Children

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Knoxville (WVLT) - A west Knoxville church sends a strong warning to parents hoping to keep their children safe from on-line predators.

Volunteer TV's Gary Loe attended the computer safety program and joins us with more on new ways your children are being targeted on-line.

Wednesday, Cokesbury United Methodist Church leaders turned to a Knoxville detective to educate uninformed moms and dads about Internet dangers aimed at their children, and how to avoid them.

Authorities want this information in the hands of parents, in hopes of preventing their children from becoming molestation victims.
These photos may look like the guy next door, or someone from church. Knoxville Police detective Tom Evans says they're convicted on-line child predators.

Evans works on-line undercover, posing as a 13-year-old girl in order to rid the Internet of men soliciting children for sex.

"Every day I'm seeing multiple individuals on-line that are trafficking in child pornography. We're seeing individuals that are attempting to solicit children on-line," Evans said.

Three-year-old Marley is not yet old enough to use the computer without supervision, but Bo and Minette Townsend are learning now how to protect their daughter from Internet dangers.

"Learn what to do, and what not to do, and learn how to secure our system at home to keep our children safe," Townsend said.

That safety's important. Marley's already using the Internet.

"She's becoming more and more interested in it, likes to go to sesamestreet.com and do her children's games, but other influences will be out there soon," Minette Townsend said.

Those influences are widespread. This is police video of an actual on-line chat room conversation. The participant solicits the undercover cop and is eventually arrested for the on-line crime.

Detective Evans recommends talking with your child about Internet usage, making chat rooms off-limits, learning computer lingo, and setting up the family computer in a public space in the house, not in a child's room.

The hope is that children of these parents will never come face-to-face with an on-line predator.

"Children are our most precious, innocent resource in this country," Evans said.

Detective Evans stresses that Internet offenders are often child molesters. So, it's important that parents also not allow their children to post photos of themselves on their Myspace accounts and Yahoo profiles.

The Internet cop says parents may think a child is too young for those concerns, but Evans says evidence recovered from Internet offenders shows the ages of victims are decreasing, while the amount of violence is increasing.