TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - One day after authorities announced the arrest of Richard Finkbiner, 39, of Clay County on charges of blackmailing teenagers in exchange for sexually explicit images, some parents are left to wonder how safe their children are online.
Authorities point out that national, state and local law enforcement and prosecutors have arrested thousands of alleged online predators in recent years, and the U.S. Justice Department reports indictments against 2,929 in 2011 alone through the department's Project Safe Child program.
They also note that many sexual predators can face tough penalties, particularly those charged with federal crimes.
"In the area of child exploitation, federal law is extremely severe and harsh," said U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett in a Monday press release.
Still, authorities warn that the prevalence of internet technology makes it possible for child predators to target minors across the country and around the world.
Those who work with internet technology say that one poor decision by a child can have lasting consequences, particularly in cases of sextortion.
"Children have the judgment of children, and unfortunately, in these cases, they're paying adult consequences, said Jerry Hargis, a consultant with the Joink technology company.
In many cases, sharing photos or videos can carry potential dangers to kids, Hargis said.
"It's difficult to control where content goes once it's placed on the internet, either through the loss of control you have when you put it on a public site or through someone else accessing it with or without your permission," Hargis said.
Hargis said it's important for parents to educate themselves about online issues by visiting sites like this one from Microsoft , this one from the Federal government , this one from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children or this one from the Family Online Safety Institute .
"Typically, the kids will learn more about the technology than their parents … and parents shouldn't be intimidated by that," Hargis said. "The same sorts of things that make for good parenting in every other circumstance make for good parenting online."
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