Attorney general's office coaches youth to dodge Internet predators
Meredith Mannebach and Officer Rhett McQuiston from the Utah Attorney General's Office were in Helper on Monday to teach local school children about the risks of using the Internet.
The program presented to the local youth was a Netsmartz presentation.
Netsmartz is a program sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
The Utah Legislature funds the state program and the office of the attorney general runs it.
Mannebach and McQuiston warned the children of the dangers of chat rooms and of giving personal information over the Internet.
They presented videotaped first-person stories of children who had met strangers on the Internet and who had placed themselves and their families in danger.
Mannebach warned the children that the Internet can be a wonderful place, but a dangerous place, too.
The students were told about Internet risks, the warning signs, how to detect a potentially dangerous situation and what to do if they suspect that a predator is setting them up.
To deal with the ever increasing problem of Internet predators, the state of Utah has put together an Internet safety task force.
The task force includes:
Two United States Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.
Three representatives from the Utah Attorney General's Office.
One Salt Lake City police detective.
A representative from the state department of corrections' adult parole and probation agency.
At least one law enforcement official from the West Jordan and West Valley City police departments.
Mannebach is a full-time employee of the attorney general's office who travels to locations across the state making the presentation to school children.
The presentations are age specific and the material is geared to the audience.
Mannebach spoke twice at Sally Mauro Elementary on Nov. 14, once to the younger children and then to the older group.
The attorney general's office representative also gave a presentation at Helper Junior High School.
Mannebach indicated that she will speak wherever she is asked and she has given as many as eight presentations in a single day.
Officer McQuiston told the Helper Junior High students that he works as an Internet detective who plays the part of a 13-year-old girl on Internet chat rooms.
McQusiton is a big man, and he pointed out to the students that if he can pass himself off as a young girl, how easy it must be for Internet predators to pass themselves off as something they are not. The students were told that officer McQuiston has arrested 74 Internet predators while posing as a teen aged girl.
Netsmartz is an impressive presentation, and one that the state Attorney General hopes to have in every Utah school in the near future.