Suburban Experts Warn of Internet Dangers Officials Testify That Some Web Sites Help Predators Find Children 'With Staggering Ease'

Article excerpt

Byline: Russell Lissau Daily Herald Staff Writer

Myspace.com and other social networking Web sites are smorgasbords for sexual predators hunting young victims, a suburban police detective warned Monday during a congressional hearing in Chicago.

"(Predators) are going to go where the children are," Naperville police detective Rich Wistocki said during the roughly 90-minute hearing at the Dirksen Federal Building.

Parents need to protect children online, Wistocki and other Internet-crime experts testified, by talking to them about possible Web dangers, getting their kids' computer passwords and setting usage rules.

U.S. Reps. Judy Biggert of Hinsdale and Mark Kirk of Highland Park, both Republicans, led the hearing. They primarily wanted to spread word of the perils these Web sites pose for kids.

Testifying with Wistocki were: Patricia Fix, chief of the Lake County state's attorney's high-technology crime unit; Sgt. Rick White of the Lake County sheriff's child exploitation unit, Mount Prospect police Investigator Robert Riordan, Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 Associate Superintendent Prentiss Lea and Northwest Suburban High School District 214 Associate Superintendent Mike Damyanovich.

While Fix, White and Riordan fight to put sex offenders behind bars, Damyanovich's district prohibits student access to social networking sites on campus.

Lea talked about his district's new policy that will punish students in extracurricular programs for depicting illegal or inappropriate behavior on the Internet.

Some witnesses shared disturbing stories about predators who've found suburban victims online. They do so, Fix said, with "staggering ease."

Representatives from myspace.com - one of several social networking Web sites - work more closely with authorities to stop predators than those from other companies, Wistocki said. The site also features a safety warning and tips for parents.

Even so, he and other witnesses who testified said the companies should do more to stop predators. …