FBI support NT Police to target cyberspace sex offending

05 September 2011
Agent James Volkert from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation is in Darwin providing specialist training with the NT Police Sex Crimes Division and Child Abuse Taskforce into online investigations.

Agent Volkert specialises in online, undercover investigation specifically targeting child exploitation by sex offenders and is sharing skills in this area of investigation to further enhance the independent, online investigation techniques of the NT Police.

The internet is a part of most Territory youth’s daily lifestyle, both for educational purposes and also as a pseudo public place; it is used by most young people to innocently socialise and share images.

Unfortunately this has resulted in a growing issue worldwide as sex offenders are increasingly using the internet to engage with vulnerable youths, causing significant risk of exposure to harmful content or worse.

The internet also provides sex offenders with opportunities to network with one another, including the capacity to share images and other content promoting the sexual exploitation of children.

Sharing best practice and experience from specialists such as the FBI increases the NT Police capabilities to proactively protect Territory youths from cyberspace sex offenders.

This week also marks ‘National Child Protection Week’ hosting the theme, ‘Play Your Part’.

Detective Senior Sergeant Manley said while responsible adults including Police Officers traditionally educate youths with ‘Stranger Danger’ messages, it is important such messages extend to cyber safety.

“It’s a common fact that youths growing up with computers often know more about them than their parents.

“However, while youths are largely aware of how to respond if approached by a stranger in the street, they may fail to recognise the signs of cyber predators including sex offenders and innocently fail to understand that they are the prey.

“It is important that parents and carers understand cyber safety, understand what their children are doing on the internet, and openly discuss cyber safety in the home.” Detective Senior Sergeant Manley said.

Online safety tips for youths and parents

Cyber Safety Tips for Youths:

  • Never give out your name, home address, age, date of birth, phone number or school name – or any personal information – to strangers online.
  • If engaging in social networking sites, ensure you have security settings in place so only your selected friends can view your information.
  • Don’t give out your password to anyone, either online or offline.
  • Don’t engage in online ‘chat’ with people you don’t know and are unknown to your family.
  • Never agree to meet an online friend in person without one of your parents.
  • Don’t email pictures of yourself to strangers online.
  • Never accept things from strangers online, such as email, pictures or links to other websites.
  • If someone says or does something on line that makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, tell an adult straight away.

Cyber Safety Tips for Parents:

  • Go through the ‘cyber safety tips for youths’ with your child.
  • Use the Internet with your child. Be involved in your child’s online activities.
  • Learn about and use tools like filters, check internet histories and set ground rules for online behaviour.
  • If you allow access to social networking accounts, know your children’s passwords so you can check activity.
  • Consider if you allow access to social networking accounts, that they are linked where possible to your email account so you receive notifications of activities.
  • If you allow access to ‘chat rooms’ know, at all times, who your child is talking to online, and what websites they visit.
  • Put your child’s computer in a ‘family area’ of the house such as the lounge room – never in the child’s room.
  • Teach your child never to plan a face-to-face meeting with online friends, and to tell you if they are asked to meet someone offline.

Look for signs that indicate that your child may be at risk, such as:

  • Finding pornography on the computer – child sex offenders use pornography to introduce children to their world
  • If your child is receiving phone calls, or making calls, to people you don’t know – child sex offenders will try to speak directly to a child they have met on the internet
  • If your child is spending a lot of time chatting on the internet – sex offenders make a study of children’s interests and will empathise with their problems
  • If your child is receiving gifts or mail from people you don’t know – another strategy of sex offenders leading up to a face-to-face meeting
  • When you enter the room does your child switch screens or switch off the computer to hide inappropriate content?
  • Is your child withdrawn, displaying behavioural problems, accusing you of ‘not understanding’ while spending considerable time on the internet– child sex offenders are masters of exploiting the every day issues that trouble children.

You should report offensive conduct or material to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the first instance. You can also report concerning content online to the Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA) by going to www.acma.gov.au and following the links.

If you believe a child may be at risk of harm, contact NT Police on 131 444 you can seek further advice from police by phoning 131 444 & providing details requesting a call back from the Sex Crimes Section.  Alternatively you can remain anonymous by contacting Crimestoppers toll-free on 1800 333 000.

If a child is in immediate danger, contact NT Police on Triple zero (000).