World wide worries: Parents advised on how to protect their children while online
A day before three South Lake Tahoe men were arrested on charges relating to having child pornography on their computers, parents gathered to learn how to protect their children when they surf the Internet.
Some in attendance called it “eye-opening.” Held Wednesday night by St. Theresa Catholic School, a member of the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force led a discussion on the dangers posed by the Internet to youths.
“I think there’s too many parents who treat the computer and Internet as a baby-sitter and we can’t do that anymore,” said parent and audience member Daunelle Wulstein, who has two daughters.
El Dorado County sheriff’s detective Dave Lawrence, member of the Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force, revealed how some teenagers use the social networking Web site myspace.com to flaunt their adoration of marijuana smoking and other illegal activities. He also spoke of chat rooms, how to avoid computer viruses and safeguards parents can institute for the safe use of computers.
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On Thursday, three men were arrested by law enforcement personnel from different agencies on suspicion of possessing and distributing child pornography.
According to an affidavit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, law enforcement discovered on the computer of 60-year-old Robert Judson Gienapp “sexually explicit communications with persons identifying themselves as 11- to 17-year-old females.”
Gienapp used a screen name of “hairy_bears_bone4u2c” for the chat room sessions, according to the court document.
Like Gienapp, the two other men, 64-year-old Joseph John George Scanio, and 49-year-old David Kearby Clements, are charged with receiving, reproducing and possessing pictures depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit activity.
Clements is also charged with attempting to produce such images.
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Wulstein, whose daughters are 8 and 9, allows them to have computers without Internet in their rooms. The computer with Internet access is in the kitchen, she said.
A daytime session was also held that was tailored to students, said Danette Winslow, principal of St. Theresa Catholic School. Kindergartners and first-graders, for instance, were told to tell adults when inappropriate pictures pop up on the Internet. Students in the fifth to eighth-grade heard stories of misguided teenagers running away from home to meet with people they encountered on the Internet, Winslow said.
“If somebody is getting that close to you it’s not for a good reason and there’s other ways to get the help you need than going online,” said Winslow, who hosted a similar forum last year.
Carry Loomis, a parent of a sixth-grader at South Tahoe Middle School, said her daughter doesn’t have too much interest in the Internet but wanted to learn of the dark underside of the World Wide Web.
“I tell you when she does start to show interest, we will change things,” she said.
Loomis was among the chorus of parents who voiced disappointment, or at least surprise, at the forum’s turnout, especially with recent news reports of arrests tied to child pornography.
Winslow said there is a possibility the online forum could return in the spring.
“I think it’s something everybody should take very seriously,” she said.
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Besides the three arrests Thursday, news of potential child predators have permeated South Lake Tahoe with the April arrest of retired Nevada corrections office Timothy Craig Randall, a 57-year-old who thought he was about to meet a 13-year-old girl when classes ended at South Tahoe Middle School.
Randall met the “girl,” a decoy with Perverted Justice, in a Yahoo! chat room and pleaded guilty last month in federal court to one count of traveling in interstate commerce for purposes of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor female.
Last month also marked the arrest of former Lake Tahoe Unified School District second-grade teacher Karsten Gronwold on suspicion of creating, possessing and distributing child pornography. The investigation into Gronwold, 49, began when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received online complaints regarding an account containing child pornography.
Gronwold is being held without bail at Sacramento County Main Jail. He is due in federal court Wednesday for a status conference on the case.
For more information on children’s safe use of the Internet, visit http://www.SacHiTechCops.org
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