We asked some of our most loyal supporters how the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children helps them keep kids safe… here’s what Michael, a Digital Forensics Specialist for a school system in the United States said.
Your name, and how you work with kids:
My name is Michael* and my job title is Digital Forensics Specialist at a school system in the US—I make sure that school technology isn’t being used inappropriately by students or teachers. I handle both routine data safety as well as more sensitive cases of teachers using school property to produce or distribute child sexual abuse imagery, inappropriate communication between students and teachers, and stuff of that nature.
Which National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) resources do you use most often, in what setting, and how long have you been using them?
Because of my job, I know how dangerous the internet is and what can happen to children online. That’s why I regularly offer free classes to parents at my church, and a few other local churches, on how to keep kids safe on the internet. For those presentations, I use NCMEC’s NetSmartz “Internet Safety for Parents, Guardians, and Communities” PowerPoint presentation. I also use your more kid friendly presentations in Sunday School lessons about internet safety about once a year.
At the school system I work for, I know that NCMEC collects data from every one of the cases that come through my office because they’re the ones that run the CyberTipline. NCMEC gets all the reports of child sexual abuse material online and are the ones working to take those images down.
Was there a need that prompted you to search for this resource? If so, can you briefly summarize the problem that you were facing?
Like I said, I see how kids are manipulated by adult predators close to them every day using technology—so I know how dangerous it is out there and I do what I can.
My church has a large immigrant population where the parents struggle to keep up with the technology that their kids use and often have no idea about. My presentations are geared towards those parents. I know that I can’t teach them everything, but I can at least make them a little more aware of the things that their kids might be facing, what signs to look for, and how to talk to their kids about basic online safety.
A lot of the time parents who didn’t grow up with the internet or computers in their daily life never think that someone might be using Instagram or Facebook to groom their child over time so that they could exploit them. There are so many different scenarios, and none of them are things that parents can, or ever want to imagine happening to their child. But they do and that’s why I try to broach these taboo subjects.
How useful has the resource been to you? Has it helped meet the need/solve the problem you were facing?
I don’t think that anything is going to completely solve the problem. But I like how NCMEC does so many different things to tackle these big issues. They’re collecting the data, publishing research, helping law enforcement, providing materials for parents, and they support policies that keep the internet safe for all children.
I use only one small part of the resources that they offer and it’s been very helpful. I know a lot of teachers who use the NetSmartz materials in their classrooms and that saves them the trouble of having to make these things from scratch.
If someone you met was in a similar job/position as you, what would you tell them about NCMEC and the resources they provide?
If you are a teacher or work with kids, visit the NetSmartz website and check out their resources: https://www.missingkids.org/netsmartz/home
The presentations and worksheets are great, and I believe they have an animated series as well. I haven’t watched that myself, but I think it’s a great way of reaching kids early in a way that wouldn’t bore or scare them.
If a close friend or family member was thinking about making a donation to NCMEC but was unsure, what would you tell them to convince them?
Do it. Donate to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children right now—and don’t just make one gift, sign up for a monthly gift because the need for an organization like NCEMC is not going away as long as the internet is around.
Right now there’s so much work that needs to be done and the internet is full of child sexual abuse imagery. This stuff ruins kids’ lives, I see it every day and I’m so glad that there’s an organization like NCEMC fighting back and helping protect kids. This is a massive problem and we all need to stand against it together by supporting NCMEC.
*Names and locations changed to protect privacy