Protecting Children on the Electronic Frontier A Law Enforcement Challenge

By Parsons, Matt | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, October 2000 | Go to article overview

Protecting Children on the Electronic Frontier A Law Enforcement Challenge


Parsons, Matt, The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


Parents serving in the U.S. military would never leave their children alone in a strange neighborhood. They would not allow them to stroll through an adult bookstore, let them wander aimlessly on a busy street, or permit them to have secret meetings with strangers. In the past, they could count on sentries at the entrances to their assigned bases to provide a barrier to exclude those not suitable for access. Today, however, these parents face a risk to their children lurking right in their own homes--the Internet. This modern technology allows those who target children to bypass the gates and guards and enter homes to interact with unsuspecting youngsters via their computers.

In the ongoing effort to keep up with technology and the new threats posed by a potentially international criminal element, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) [1] Computer Investigations and Operations Department prepared and deployed a compact disk in September 1999 containing two programs designed to prevent and deter computer crime. The first focuses on the on-line safety concerns of Department of the Navy personnel and families living outside the United States, while the second educates Navy and Marine Corps leaders about the proliferation of child pornography on computer networks.

Both programs fall under the NCIS computer crime prevention program, which has as its motto "a bit of prevention is worth a gigabyte of cure." [2]

SAFEKIDS

Safekids is a computer crime prevention initiative specifically designed to provide on-line safety information to Navy and Marine Corps children and families living overseas who may not understand the issues, pitfalls, and dangers associated with the Internet. While military families living overseas face many challenges, NCIS wants to ensure that online activity need not result in an added or unknown danger for these families. To that end, Safekids provides information for children in the 4th through 9th grades and suitable, related information for parents.

With over 110,000 U.S. dependent students in more than 238 Department of Defense schools in 15 locations around the world, providing support proves a logistical challenge. Key to meeting this challenge is an e-mail account established at NCIS Headquarters in Washington, DC. NCIS encourages adults and children who have questions or who receive disturbing online messages to send an e-mail to safekids@ncis.navy.mil. NCIS special agents monitoring the account evaluate and then forward these e-mails to the closest NCIS field element for response directly to the senders. NCIS recognizes that not all messages will contain criminal information. However, in cases requiring attention, agents will forward the e-mail to the appropriate response element in the overseas military community for resolution or intervention by a family advocacy representative, the military chaplain, or other appropriate local agency. NCIS stresses that the e-mail account is for law enforcement assistance and referral only and provides no techn ical support.

The Safekids compact disk contains several programs aimed at children and their parents. The presentations include an introduction, a section for children, a segment on what parents should look for, and a resource component that gives parents some tools to protect their children.

Introduction to Safekids

A short introduction includes the theory, target, and point of the effort and operates on two main premises. First, children are frequently the reason that families adopt new technology, and because of the reliance on technology in the military, Navy and Marine Corps children may experience more exposure than mainstream American youngsters. Second, because of deployment schedules, military families living outside the United States may become single-parent based more often, and the "electronic babysitter" may present yet another challenge to an unsuspecting parent becoming acclimated to a new culture. …

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