Internet Crimes Expert Delivers Warning To Bay Students

"Look ladies! He likes poetry, plants, flowers and watching movies by the fire," Officer Chris Wilkinson told a group of students at Our Lady Academy.

A name, a picture, and a list of hobbies. Danny's profile looks like most others on Internet social networks.

"He never stated on his My Space page that he's a level 3 sex offender," Wilkinson said.

But looks can be deceiving. Pensacola Police officer Chris Wilkinson told the students that people on the Internet aren't always who they say they are.

"There's a lot of demand for children's pictures and such, so a lot of children are virtually molested by sending pictures of themselves out there in the Internet by people they think they can trust," Wilkinson said. "They think they're talking to another 14-year-old boy or girl, and when in fact, they're talking to a predator who can be as old as 60-70 years of age."

Wilkinson works with the Internet Crimes Against Children task force.

"You're much more likely to run into a predator. Predators go where kids are.  They go the social networking sites like My Space.  They go to the game sites. They're posing as kids to get to you.," Wilkinson said.  "It's a dangerous world out there.  You need to act appropriately and take steps not to shoot yourself in the foot or cause anybody else to get hurt."

Wilkinson says parents are often unaware when predators are after their children.

"It's paramount that we reach the kids because they're the ones that are making the decisions, and they grew up with computers," Wilkinson said. "Their parents, unfortunately, in the computer age, it kind of happened after them. So they're not able or knowledgeable to be able to protect them. So the children need to understand the dangers that exist out there today."

Wilkinson also told the students to be careful about what they post.  What may seem like harmless fun now, could come back to haunt them later.

"Employers check it," Wilkinson said. "There's federal scholarship programs that will check. A lot of colleges now are checking My Space, especially in lieu of the Virginia Tech shooting. They're becoming more and more tuned to what kids are putting out there about themselves. So it can really cost a child a great future, just an inside joke, something stupid as that."

Officer Wilkinson also wants to warn adults about Internet crimes, especially child pornography. He will speak to parents about the dangers, and share tips on ways to protect their children.