JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow this week sent letters to school officials across the county warning them of the dangers their students face when they post personal information on “social networking” Web sites like Myspace.com or Xanga.com.
The state’s attorney also is making high-tech investigators and prosecutors from his Computer Crimes Unit available to educators, parents and students for presentations on Internet safety.
“Our young people must realize they are making themselves vulnerable to Internet predators when they post personal information and photographs on these Web sites,” Glasgow said. “If we are to protect them, teachers and parents also must know what teen-agers are posting and how others are responding.”
Glasgow warned that two local cases should serve as early warnings in a dangerous trend:
- A 21-year-old Joliet man allegedly met his 16-year-old victim through her Myspace account. The defendant stands accused of giving the girl alcohol and using his Webcam to broadcast her performing sexual acts over the Internet. He now faces a host of child pornography charges.
- Two local teen-agers who committed suicide within weeks of each other both participated in Myspace. One of those Myspace accounts has been converted into an online memorial for the victims.
Myspace.com, with more than 70 million members, has become the most popular Web site among students nationwide. However, educators across the country are reporting increases in negative behavior associated with these sites and have begun blocking them from school computers.
Myspace.com limits its search results of members in a particular area to 3,000. But there are clearly many more teen-age Myspace.com members in Will County. A search for teen-age members in Joliet’s main ZIP codes, for example, consistently hits that 3,000 cap. As a point of reference, the less popular Xanga.com site lists 13,420 members in the Joliet area.
The state’s attorney’s Computer Crimes Unit, which is a part of the Illinois Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, is equipped to investigate and prosecute child predators who use the Internet. But Glasgow urged educators and parents to be proactive. By the time Internet cases come to the attention of prosecutors, the damage often is already done, he said.
For additional information on Internet safety, visit the state’s attorney’s Web site at https://willcountysao.com. Click on Crime Prevention and Protecting Our Kids Online.
Educators who want to arrange an educational presentation by the state’s attorney’s Computer Crimes Unit for teachers, parents or students should contact the director of Crime Prevention Services, at (815) 727-8742.