Now that Volusia County schools have begun their fall semester, our kids and grandchildren aren’t the only ones who have some learning to do. We’re continuing to host a series of forums to educate the public about Internet predators and how you can protect your children.
You still have time to attend either of our two remaining forums: Aug. 28 in DeBary and Aug. 29 in Pierson.
At these forums, we’ll talk with parents, grandparents, and guardians about the risks and warning signs of online dangers, as well as constantly changing apps and social media.
We’ll also talk about human trafficking and we’ll give you strategies to help you keep your child from becoming a victim.
The Volusia Sheriff’s Office is a member of the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, which allows us to share resources between several federal, state, and local agencies to go after predators and other criminals.
We also partner with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which operates the CyberTipline. This tipline receives reports about multiple types of online child sexual exploitation.
In 2022, 99.5 percent of the reports received by the CyberTipline involved suspected child pornography. That year, the tipline received more than 32 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation.
This calendar year, the VSO has received an average of 65 such reports per month.
Folks, we can’t hide our heads in the sand. The dangers of Internet predators are real and these numbers are astounding.
That’s why we launched our Youth Safety forums after we recently arrested a 29-year-old Cocoa Beach man who drove to Deltona and had sex with a 12-year-old girl. He met his young victim online, using an app called “Wink,” where he told her he was 17. Then they talked on Instagram and eventually planned to meet in person. I’m very proud that our deputies and detectives arrested this suspect, but sadly, many more predators are waiting for an opportunity to victimize children.
You and your family can arm yourself with what to watch for and how to avoid such deceptive behavior.
Our next two forums are scheduled from 6-7:30 p.m.:
• Aug. 28, DeBary City Hall 16 Colomba Road, DeBary;
• Aug. 29, Mission San Jose of St. Peter, 165 Emporia Rd., Pierson.
We’re also putting together an online version of our presentation—stay tuned to our social media and website for details to come.
We have several safety guides available at volusiasheriff.gov/resources including sexual abuse prevention information intended to prevent molestation, sexual assault, online luring, harassment, sexting, bullying/cyberbullying, self-harm, and more.
Two other resources I want to highlight:
Protect Young Eyes: https://protec tyoungeyes.com/apps/ This provides a list of some of the most popular social media and networking apps used by kids.
Digital Futures Initiative: https://www.dfinow.org/ The info on this site includes a guide to parental control apps and tools you can use to block certain content. Remember: For every prevention tool, there’s usually a workaround that kids can find out there.
These discussions are so important to protect our next generation because it’s easier than ever for illintentioned strangers to reach our kids. We all need to remain vigilant and keep these predators at bay.
Stay smart and stay safe,