Cyber Safety Budget Cut

June 3, 2009 6:57:42 PM PDT
Advocacy groups warn on-line predators are stalking kids at record numbers. At the same time, budget cuts in the City of Clovis has nearly stopped a task force from educating students and parents. Child pornography is considered one of the fastest growing on-line industries. To protect kids from that danger, Clovis Police held classes for students and parents. That program has virtually ended. But this summer, teachers will be given new tools.

18-year-old Sarah has more than 300 friends on her MySpace page. Every now and then, she gets explicit messages from men. Sarah said, "Perverts. That's all I can think of them, perverts? like all the time, random people just add me. I will go look at their page to see if I know them. If I don't, I will tell them I don't know you. Don't try to add me."

To help people like Sarah, Clovis Police had a plan. Vince Weibert's cyber crime team already busted dozens of suspected child predators. They also held seminars to educate kids and parents about internet dangers, but the City of Clovis faced a budget crunch and cut their outreach funding. Weibert said, "It's probably five percent of what it was a year to two years ago. We will still occasionally get a presentation in, but for the most part we are pretty much done."

Fresno County Schools Superintendent Larry Powell said students really don't get an education about internet safety. This summer teachers will finally be offered a course to detect and deflect risky on-line behavior. Powell said, "We are lucky in schools. We have filters. So, we can stop a lot of things from our computers. What we can't do is stop what happens at home."

Starting on August 17, teachers can take the Cyber Safety Certification Course. It's not mandatory and costs $100. Superintendent Powell also added that parents need to stop being in denial about on-line predators and the danger they pose to children.

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