10 Guidelines to Keeping Kids & Teens Safe Online: The Lessons Learned from Operation Broken Heart III

The United States Justice Department and the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces recently completed an “investigative operation to identify and arrest suspected child sexual predators during April and May 2016.”

Law enforcement officers who took part in the emotionally taxing task of combing through disturbing photos, impersonating young teens to arrange meet ups and scanning internet chatrooms were able to arrest nearly 1,400 suspected child predators.

Additionally, Operation Broken Heart III, as it is formally called, educated communities on how to practice internet safety and what steps one should take if he/she feels uncomfortable online. In all, approximately 2,300 online safety presentations were given.

“Today, mobile devices, such as smartphones, make it easier for youth to access the Internet, making them more vulnerable to online predators,” said OJJDP Administrator Robert L. Listenbee. “Operation Broken Heart allows ICAC task forces and law enforcement to intensify their efforts to apprehend these predators and keep youth safe through Internet safety training and outreach.”


The Arrests

The ICAC Task Force said they targeted individuals who:

  • Possess, manufacture and distribute child pornography
  • Engage in online enticement of children for sexual purposes
  • Engage in the commercial sexual exploitation of children (commonly referred to as sexual trafficking of children)
  • Engage in child sex tourism (traveling abroad for the purpose of sexually abusing children in other countries)

In California, 238 child sex predators were arrested. Maryland captured 46; Arizona caught 44. Houston stopped 126 child predators, while Texas apprehended 23 and Louisiana caught 36. Twenty-one predators were arrested in New Mexico, twenty-eight in Michigan, and 17 in Kentucky. Maine indicted one man on 110 counts of possession of child pornography.

During the ICAC’s history, they have put over 66,000 people behind bars, reviewed over 600,000 child exploitation complaints, and more than half a million people have been trained to crackdown on child predators online.

Internet Safety Tips

While the streets – and the Internet – are safer thanks to these diligent law enforcement officers, this should be a wake-up call to children and parents to be more attentive to what their kids are doing while online.

The National Children’s Advocacy Center provides ten guidelines for kids and teens on how to remain safe online. We recommend parents print this list and post it near the home computer to remind everyone of the perils of Internet predators:

  1. 1. Spend time having fun with your parents online and helping them understand technology!
  2. Never post your personal information, such as a cell phone number, home number, home address, or your location on any social networking site or through mobile apps like Snapchat or Instagram.
  3. Never meet in person with anyone you first “met” on the internet. If someone asks to meet you, tell your parents or guardian right away. Some people may not be who they say they are.
  4. Check with your parents before you post pictures of yourself or others online. Do not post inappropriate pictures of anyone.
  5. Never respond to mean or rude texts, messages, and e-mails. Delete any unwanted messages. You may need to delete friends who continuously bother you or post things that are not appropriate.
  6. NEVER share your password with anyone, including your best friend. The only people who should know your password are your parents or guardian.
  7. If you wouldn’t say something to another person’s face, don’t text it or post it online.
  8. Do not download or install software or anything on your computer or cell phone before checking with your parents or guardian.
  9. Use the privacy settings of social networking sites.
  10. If anything makes you feel uncomfortable online, while gaming or when using your cell phone, talk with your parents or guardian right away.

If you suspect a child is being abused, whether it’s online, in the schoolyard, during after school activities, or while in the care of another, reach out to the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline. You can make a tremendous difference in the life of an abused child just by seeking support from our professional crisis counselors. Call Childhelp at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).