MISSION VIEJO (CBSLA.com) — Authorities plan to launch a program designed to educate parents and children alike to the dangers of cyber crimes, specifically those connected to a recent trend known as “sexting”, in an effort to prevent them from being targeted by predators.
The Deputy Director of Immigrations and Custom Enforcement (ICE), along with the Vice President of Exploitation at the National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children (NMEC), arrived in Orange County from Washington DC on Monday, and plan to announce the program on Tuesday.
“Parents wouldn’t let their child wander down a dark alley alone,” ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale said. “Predators can sort of hide in a dark corner and victimize kids in the blink of an eye.”
One Orange County family, who recently discovered their teenaged daughter had endangered herself by taking part in sexting — the sharing nude or sexually explicit photos along with improper text messages to another party via text message — spoke with CBS2’s Stacey Butler.
“I was more in shock more than anything,” the girl’s father told Butler. “I didn’t even want to look at the pictures for a long time.”
According to the victim’s mother, the 16-year old honor student had unwittingly found herself connected to a predator.
“The night that we found out about all the information, she tried to meet up with at least three different people,” the girl’s mother explained.
Her parents called the police, and it was not long before they discovered that their daughter was being targeted by a 27-year-old Santa Clarita man. The man was reportedly arrested for sending lewd material to a minor.
Law enforcement, however, is having difficulty keeping up with the increasing amount of teens posting sexually explicit photos and videos online and finding themselves victims of online predators.
“We are devoting more and more resources,” Ragsdale said. “But, we know we cannot arrest our way out of this problem.”
“We received about fifteen thousand cases a week, hundreds of them blackmailed into producing sexually explicit images of themselves to send to somebody,” NMEC’s Michelle Collins said.
The ICE’s iGuardian tool is the newest weapon in the fight against online predators. The tool, launched in Summer of 2013, aims to keep kids from posting inappropriate material online.
The official announcement of the new program is expected at Newhart Elementary School at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.