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Pacific edition, Thursday, August 30, 2007

KADENA AIR BASE — You think it could never happen in a military community.

But it does.

Just this summer, a San Diego-based sailor deployed to Australia did it. So did an Okinawa-based Marine.

They used the Internet to prey on children.

Petty Officer 2nd Class David Wayne Budd pleaded guilty Aug. 20 in an Australian court to grooming a child for sex. He had been communicating online with what he thought was a 14-year-old girl, who turned out to be a police officer.

And in June, Lance Cpl. David W. Palmer, 22, a military policeman with 3rd Marine Logistics Group, pleaded guilty to three charges of child pornography. He was caught in a sting after a 14-year-old military dependent contacted Navy investigators about exchanges she had with Palmer over MySpace.com.

Though he did not mention the two cases, they illustrate a point child safety expert Ken Wooden discussed with parents and children Monday at Kadena Air Base: the Internet is another tool predators use to target children.

One in five Internet users between the ages of 10 to 17 has received a sexual solicitation online, Wooden said.

Many of the lures predators use on children in person are also used in cyberspace, Wooden stressed. A craigslist posting that offers free puppies or kittens or a chat room bulletin job postings that require teens to apply in person are examples, Wooden said.

And there’s one question he said many child predators will use to get a child’s attention: “How do your parents get along?”

“This is a scary question for kids” and predators can use this to create distance between the child and parents, he said.

“We all have our moments [in our marriages] and it’s nobody’s business” but yours, he said. Still you need to talk to your child about what those moments in your marriage are about, he said. “Don’t let it be a wedge a predator can use.”

Wooden told parents the key to preventing Internet predation is simple: know what your children are doing online.

But that simple step isn’t always followed, Wooden said, providing some statistics:

n 62 percent of teens reported that parents know little to nothing about their online usage.

n 71 percent of parents stop monitoring children’s online usage at about 14 years of age.

n 72 percent of Internet-related missing children are about 15 years old.

Addressing the young people in the audience, Wooden stressed that it is never a good idea to send X-rated images of themselves to friends over cyberspace.

“If you do it, it is forever in cyberspace” and you never know when or where it will reappear, he said.

Digital talk

According to Ken Wooden, many adults couldn’t identify Internet symbols their children use in online chat rooms, often to warn that they are being watched.

ADR

Address

A/S/L

Age/Sex/Location

BRB

Be right back

CTN

Can’t talk now

F2F

Face to face

KPC

Keeping parents clueless

LMIRL

Let’s meet in real life

NIFOC

Nude in front of camera

P911

Parents entering room

POS

Parents over shoulder

SA

Sibling alert/Sibling nearby

TA

Teacher alert

Helpful Web sites for text messaging translation include www.netlingo.com, a dictionary of text messaging shorthand, and www.teenangels.org, an online teen safety organization.

From staff reports

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