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Reports Of Cyber Crimes Against Children Is On The Rise In South - KOAM TV 7

Reports Of Cyber Crimes Against Children Is On The Rise In Southwest Missouri

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Reports of cyber crimes involving children are on the rise in Southwest Missouri. Statistics released by the Joplin Police Department of 2013 crime rates show the reports increased almost 20 percent over the previous year.  

"I think that the term friend has become very ambiguous," said instructional coach Heather Van Otterloo.
 
Van Otterloo works at South Middle School in Joplin. This year eighth graders went one to one with I-Pads. Van Otterloo says before giving the kids these techy toys, it was important to train them all in cyber safety; especially when it comes to connecting to strangers on the web.

"They may not know them on a personal basis so it's important to teach them to think critically and think who is this person and to realize that not everybody who portrays themselves a certain way on the internet is actually being truthful with them," she said.

And with cyber crimes against children on the rise in our area, Joplin Detective Chip Root says videos like this one teaching children about cyber criminals are important. He says the almost 20 percent increase in reports of cyber crimes against children in 2013 is in part because parents and children are learning how to speak up.  

"Let them know that it's ok to tell us, and we just have their best interest at heart, and we'll end up taking that investigation and running with it," Root said.
 
Root says that at any given time his cyber crimes task force has more than 100 open cases dealing with area children. And the problem is the crooks are not just local, in the land of the internet they could be across the world.  

"I have a case right now where the subject is in Great Britain," Root explained.
 
Van Otterloo says the key to preventing these crimes is making sure parents and kids are well informed about the risks, by doing things as simple as not letting kids take I-Pads to bed and making sure they know all of their friend on social media. And hopes continued education will prevent another 17 percent increase in 2014.

"Educating kids, educating parents is so imperative because that kind of statistic is absolutely terrifying," she said.


For more information on the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crime Task Force, click here. 
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