Opinion – 2/27/2007

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Panolian: OPINIONS

 From the 02/27/07 issue of The Panolian        

Challenge of cyberage kids

This business of raising kids gets no easier.

Ask officers Paul Garner and Heather Mills of the Oxford Police Department. Garner spent ten years in the Marine Corps and now has five years with the Oxford PD.

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Mills, the daughter of Don and Ann Mills of Pope, is following in her father’s footsteps as an Oxford police officer.

The two officers have paired up to catch Internet predators – those guys who troll cyberspace seeking liasons with underage victims to use in gratifying their lusts, a l? Dateline NBC.

"We’ve arrested 20 predators in our area," Garner said recently at a meeting of the Batesville Rotary Club.

That’s not because there are only 20 predators to arrest. It takes time to respond to the contact that initially leads to a meeting which results in an arrest.

"Heather talks on the phone," Garner said. After Internet chats lead to a telephone conversation with the predator, Mills poses on the phone as the 14-year-old that the predator has lured into further contact. Even the attractive, 20-something Mills occasionally has to make an excuse for the sound of her voice. When the potential predator tells her that she sounds older than 14, she tells them that she has a cold, Garner said.

But there are a few ground rules. "We never bring up sex; it’s always instigated by the suspect," Garner said. "We never lead them in any way."

Yet, there is apparently no shortage of men who spend a lot of time online seeking a sexual rendezvous with a 14-year-old girl.

Garner projected enlarged copies of email chat conversations for his audience, crude and graphic, leaving nothing to the imagination.

The Oxford officer also projected photo mug shots of men they had arrested. They ranged in age from about 20 to over 50. Most bore an expression of scroungy chagrin. Most, according to Garner, will get back online again as soon as they get the chance.

The problem is that most kids can run circles around their parents in navigating the Internet. They can get online almost anywhere, they access Internet-enabled video game systems, they know how to utilize every feature of whatever cell phone they come into contact with.

Nevertheless, the parent who wants to protect his child from Internet problems will explore it with the kid, according information provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It’s important for a parent to impress upon a child the risks of Internet use. Two helpful web sites are and .

Kids like to post photos, videos and personal information online to share it with other kids, information which is then out there for everybody, predators included. Some predators are especially skillful at targeting victims through insecurities that they perceive from the information kids have posted in personal profiles.

Insecurity is ultimately what predators are able to exploit – the young person with such low self-esteen that he or she welcomes the attention of a never-seen-before stranger who first offers it from the anonymity of the Internet.

And, spam blockers and porno filters aside, a kid’s best defense against cyberpredators and other most threats is security, the kind that grows from the love of parents who validate a kid’s sense of self-worth with punishing what needs punishing, reward what needs rewarding and loving all the way through.

This business of raising kids gets no easier.


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