The Internet offers a wealth of information for today's students. But it also offers a new type of danger -- one that parents must be aware of.
Recently, teachers and parents in the Laurel Highlands School District were introduced to these dangers by a member of the state police computer crime task force.
Trooper Donald Lucas is a part of the Troop B Computer Crime Task Force for the Pennsylvania State Police, which assists agencies in investigations involving computers and investigations into online predators.
Lucas said the Internet has nearly endless cultural, educational and entertainment offerings, but it also can be a dangerous place.
Among the world's 162 million Web sites, about 2 percent, or 3.24 million sites, are pornographic, he said.
"It's not going to stop growing," Lucas said, adding that while technology has made education and entertainment easier to find, it has also made it easier for child predators to operate.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 19 percent of the 24 million children who are online every day receive unwanted sexual solicitations, and only 18 percent of those serious incidents are reported.
"Once a predator locates a child and begins interacting with them, they introduce sexual content," Lucas said.
Lucas said predators normally go into chat rooms and social- networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, to find their prey.
He said the main "message board" of the chat rooms may look safe, but it's when the "private instant message" box appears that a predator may begin asking to trade photos with a child. …