November 07, 2006

FBI agent to speak on protecting children online

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois, with its small towns and rural tempo, seems removed from many of the ills that beset the state's more urban regions, but its residents include those who prey on children, "We've indicted and convicted a fair number of people for possession and distribution of child pornography in Southern Illinois, a couple of which were convicted child sex offenders," FBI Special Agent Jon Ford said in a telephone interview from his Marion office.

"You need to be aware that these people could be anyone in your community. We have worked cases involving individuals from different professions. We want everyone to understand that it's not just national — there's a local issue here."


Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend FBI Special Agent Jon Ford's class lecture about online child predators set for 1 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, in Wham Room 308 on the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus. Because special agents cannot be photographed, Supervisory Special Agent Marshall Stone from the FBI's office in Springfield will be available for pictures and television interviews. He has worked as a Crimes Against Children coordinator for the bureau.


The FBI and 15 local, county and state law enforcement agencies operate the Southern Illinois Cyber Crimes Task Force covering Illinois' lower 29 counties. Ford will appear as a guest lecturer in Jan E. Waggoner's senior-level education course, Teaching in Middle-Level Schools, Tuesday, Nov. 14. He will talk about online predators.

While today's parents learned as children to watch out for strangers with candy, today's kids need to be wary of strangers with computer savvy.

"It's an information age, where everything is on the Internet," Ford said.

A lot of children feel safe when they're online because of the Internet's anonymity, Ford said. They shouldn't.

"It's easy, with online research and online chat, to gather information about a child's hobbies, interests, name, telephone number and address," Ford said.

"We want to prevent that next step — the kidnapping or sexual victimization of the child. We have to educate children to be aware of the dangers of online predators, and parents and teachers play an integral role."

Waggoner, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction in Southern Illinois University Carbondale's College of Education and Human Services, said recent news stories and television features convinced her that knowledge of online predators and their habits was as vital to teachers-in-training as learning how to put together a challenging lesson plan.

"It's an area that we haven't explored in our classes, but we're seeing the need," Waggoner said.

"Teachers often see changes in behavior (which can signal that abuse has occurred) before anyone else does. They see it, but they don't know why students' behavior patterns change. If teachers had more tools to identify the outward signs, we might be better equipped to refer kids to places that can deal with this type of safety issue."

The FBI has put together a guide to Internet safety aimed at parents. Visit to read or download it.

Reviewing the curriculum, including the core curriculum is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 15th anniversary in 2019.