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Parents learn to be Web wary

When you're out cruising the information superhighway, you'd better keep an eye out for street corner hustlers like cyber bullies, lurking computer viruses, pedophiles and identity thieves, according to Colonie Police Sgt. Ken Fuchs.

Fuchs leads Colonie's computer crimes division, and on Thursday, Feb. 28, he gave a presentation to a dozen parents at Mohonasen High School on Internet safety.

I'm not out to scare people or portray the Internet as a bad place, said Fuchs. "The Internet makes life much easier and is an excellent tool, but it's important to understand its potential dangers."

Fuchs certainly has more knowledge of these potential dangers than the average cop. It's his job to patrol the Web looking for child pornography on peer-to-peer, file-sharing sites and even pose as a 13-year-old girl in chat rooms in an attempt to bring charges against suspected pedophiles.

Fuchs said that, locally, parents and their teenage children seem to have a "this could never happen to me attitude," but cases of regional arrests of sexual predators who entrap minors continue to make news. They are the kinds of cases he works on every day in the town of Colonie.

At Thursday's presentation, Fuchs gave parents some of the tools he deemed essential in protecting children from potential predators.

The topics covered in the talk included common chat room lingo, illegal music and file downloads, the dangers of computer viruses and cyber-bullying.

According to Fuchs, cyber-bullying can be anything from the exchange of threatening e-mails to setting up fake pages on social networking sites that make fun of or degrade the bully's target. Generally, the insults start out on the Internet but culminate in halls of schools as the information often travels to other classmates.

"With the morphing technology and programs like Photoshop that are out there, it's very easy for kids to put someone's head on a different body and post it on MySpace," said Fuchs.

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