The meeting on Sept. 12 of Mount Vernon District Station’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee was marked by a homecoming, an appreciation and a warning about the danger for children and teens that lurks on the internet.
The CAC and officers in the station welcomed back Officer Rick Cook from a 15-month deployment with the Army in Iraq. Cook will return to his position as a Crime Prevention Officer working with individuals and neighborhoods to keep themselves safe from crime. Cook’s family also attended the meeting, which began with a ceremony of appreciation for the hundreds of students at Washington Mill Elementary who wrote condolence cards to the officers at the Mount Vernon Station after two Fairfax County police officers, Det. Vicky Armel and officer Michael Garbarino, were killed in the line of duty at the Sully District Station in May.
Officers in Mount Vernon displayed the hand-made cards on the walls of the station for weeks, and on Tuesday, they revealed one card they had chosen to frame for permanent display. Seventh grader Allyson Montgomery who made the card with a poem titled “Line of Duty,” received a citation from the station with Washington Mill principal Tish Howard.
“There were so many times when I picked up the phone and called the police station,” Howard said “The line to me is, ‘Don’t worry Ms. Howard, that’s what we’re here for.’” She accepted her citation in honor of the 200 students who had contributed letters. She also praised Montgomery’s letter, saying “She really put some thought into what police officers bring into our life.”
Montgomery’s poem begins, “Every day you get up and put yourselves in danger. You know the risks, yet you still are willing to put yourselves in the line of duty.”
AFTER THE AWARDS, Haynes, who works in computer forensics, gave a presentation on internet crime. He encouraged parents to closely supervise their children’s use of the internet by setting up the computer so the screen is visible from across the room, knowing the passwords to their children’s email accounts, knowing the identities of all the names on their children’s buddy lists and installing parental controls on the internet as well as spyware on their hard drive to record every keystroke entered on the computer. “Tell kids, ‘I am putting this on here for your safety, not that I don’t trust you,’” he advised of the last strategy. “Its excellent for monitoring your children.”
As evidence of the dangers that parents must combat, he posted an online chat between a Fairfax police officer posing as a 13-year old girl, and a man who was later arrested.
“I’m 33 from FL”
“13 from VA”
“ever think of being in bed with a man my age?”
“lol … well not lately … I haven’t been in bed with anyone”
“lol I understand”
“does that seem hot to u?”
“guess it would depend on guy”
Haynes said behavioral signals of inappropriate internet use may include hiding cd’s and disks, rapidly clicking between screens when a parent enters the room, spending lots of time online, even if they say they claim to be doing homework, finding out the internet browser’s history folder has been emptied and credit card statements with charges listed only as “internet.”
He suggested parents go online with their children to see what their interests are, encourage them to end any online encounter as soon as it begins to make them feel uncomfortable, and “always teach your children never to give away personal information online.” One piece of information, like a phone number, can easily be transformed into a host of others, including, addresses, names, schools, and even photographs. He said youth who use sites like www.myspace.com frequently post a dangerous amount of information about themselves, a likelihood that is well understood by online predators.He also suggested parents visit www.missingkids.com to find an internet use contract they can sign with their children.
After the meeting, Kati Cook, 13, and her mother, Janice, spoke to Haynes. Janice Cook said she hoped her daughter understood that posting a picture of herself on the internet made it available for the use of anyone. Katie Cook said he liked to use instant messenger to chat with her friends about “school, sports and that kind of stuff.”
“What was that spyware called?” her mother asked.