Protect your kids from Internet predators

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX -- Your kids are inside your house with you so they're safe, right?

Well, if you have a computer in your home, they are not safe.

You know, years ago, moms and dads always told their kids don't talk to strangers, it's dangerous. But today kids are doing it all the time and they're doing it on the Internet and the Internet is probably the last place you want your kids to be chatting it up.

Predators are surfing the Internet and getting their kicks by targeting children.

You hear about it all the time across the nation and, yes, it's even happening right here in the Valley. An Avondale man is accused of having sex with a teenage girl and apparently he met her on MySpace.

"To a predator the Internet is the park of the 21st century," said FBI Special Agent John Iannarelli. "It's a place where they can go easily to meet your children."

3 On Your Side got together with Iannarelli, who specializes in cyber crimes, a crime he says is only getting worse.

"The reality is it's a problem that's continuing to grow and its going to grow larger and larger with time," he said.

To kids like 14-year-old Eduardo, the Internet and sites like MySpace are where all the kids go for fun.

"If you have a lot of friends [on MySpace] then you're like famous," Eduardo said.

But what Eduardo doesn't know is that some of the teenagers he's chatting with may not be teens at all. That's because predators are sometimes posing as kids.

"If they want to meet a child to potentially victimize, the Internet is the place to go," Iannarelli said.

That's exactly what happened a few years back when 13-year-old Kacie Woody thought she had met an Internet friend, a guy by the name of David Fagan, who she thought was a teenager.

But Fagan was actually 47 years old and waited until Kacie was home alone to abduct her. By the time police tracked him down hours later it was too late.

"David Fagan had killed himself," Iannarelli said. "In the back of the van was Kacie's body, who he had killed a short time before."

The FBI tells 3 On Your Side that predators hang out in chat rooms, talking it up and gaining a child's trust and Iannarelli says some of the predators are brazen.

He said he found an 8-year-old girl chatting with a man in his 60s and the conversation is disturbing with topics centering around sex and other inappropriate subject matter.

"That's one of the dangers, how quickly this develops," Iannarelli said.

But just how easy is it to be targeted?

3 On Your Side went to Google and typed in "preteen chat rooms." We logged on as a 13-year-old girl and within seconds of being logged in we were bombarded by adult men asking for our e-mail accounts and asking us lewd questions.

Even more sickening is some men actually sent us photos of themselves naked.

"Cyberspace is the Wild West -- anything goes on in cyberspace because there's really no controls," Iannarelli said.

And that means kids like Eduardo have to be careful because the FBI says these predators can strike at any time.

"I got nervous and freaked out," Eduardo said. "I thought that could happen to me."

The other problem is these predators can figure out what school your child goes to or where they live just based on innocent information that is shared in these chat rooms.

I have a list of tips you should follow when allowing your child online. .