Police teach Freeport 4th graders to stay safe from online predators with ‘the Three P’s’

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FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO) — At an assembly Wednesday, a Kane County Sheriff’s detective offered 4th graders a helpful suggestion to avoid becoming the victim of a child predator online.

Hundreds of 4th graders from the Freeport School District packed the Jeanette Lloyd Theatre at Freeport Middle School to meet with Cybercrimes Detective Richard Wistocki.

“The average Internet predator has 250 victims,” said Wistocki.

Wistocki says the number is startling, but it’s important that kids know just how dangerous the Internet can be.

“There’s no such thing as privacy for children,” he said. “It’s [the parents’] responsibility to go into those social networks and see their videos and pictures and messages, because if they don’t show their kids what to do, someone else will be.”

One of the biggest mistakes parents make, Wistocki says, is letting kids lie about their age so they can create a profile on apps like Snapchat and Instagram.

“I asked the kids: how many of you 4th, 5th graders round [your birthdays] up to 2000? And a third of them raised their hand. Now what happens [is], you have 9-year-olds posing as 19-year-olds. Who’s going to talk to them? Adults. Who’s going to send them pictures and videos that are inappropriate? Adults. Who’s going to ask them for pictures and videos? Adults. So, we are risking our children’s innocence,” he said.

Wistocki knows kids will sign up for apps and sites they’re too young to be on. He suggested following what he called the “Three P’s”: Priest, Principal, and Parent.

If a student is thinking about posting something online and doesn’t want any of those three to see it, they shouldn’t.

“Children in the young grades, even first and second grades, get into experiences that they don’t know how to handle,” said Beth Maskell, executive director for the domestic violence and sexual abuse center, Voices of Stephenson County.

Maskell helped to organize Wednesday’s presentation, and says she knows first-hand how important it is for kids to learn how to protect themselves at a young age.

“We were excited that we could do some outreach to the youth about what happens online, because so many of the people that we see after they’ve been victims of predators online,” she said. “We want to find a way to get to them before that happens.”

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