Child Pornography Admissions – Ronald Stevens Pleads Guilty! Comments By Teen Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher

April 7, 2008

It seems that Monday has been the day for several admissions or sentencings for Child Pornography. This one comes out of Pennsylvania where Ronald Stevens, age 42, plead guilty to receiving child pornography by downloading images of child pornography from his computer.

The investigation conducted by the FBI and Pittston Township Police are part of the Justice Department’s Project Safe Childhood initiative. In February 2006, the Department of Justice created Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

As a speaker, I often address groups on issues of teen ethics and safety. More times than not I find that parents – even those who are internet familiar – are not fully connected with how predators use the internet and other media to lure their unsuspecting prey. The unfortunate thing is that many times the damage is done before one becomes aware that the predator is on the prowl. I highly advise groups to become informed about the dangers of sexual predators and how to prevent or deter their efforts. After all, if we can’t become educated about how to protect our children – who will protect them?

Your comments are welcome!


Sexual Predators Aren’t Always Found On The Internet – South Carolina Teacher Gets 6 Years In Prison for Sex with Teens!

February 19, 2008

Talk about choices and consequences – not far from where I used to live (Greenville, SC) in Laurens, South Carolina a teacher was sentenced to 6 years in prison for having sex with under aged teens. As a teen ethics speaker (www.chuckgallagher.com) I often make presentations to parents about the new jungle for sexual predators – the internet. Whether it’s MySpace or Facebook, many parents aren’t familiar with the territory for predators these days. What most would never suspect is that someone – a teacher – would inflict harm on those close to him or (in this case) her by betraying their trust.

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Allenna Ward, age 24, did that – she was convicted of having sex with 14 and 15 year old boys at the school where she taught. According to a report from CNN, “Police began investigating last year after school officials found a note believed to have been written by Ward to one of the boys. Some of the victims were students at Bell Street Middle School in Clinton, where Ward taught. She was fired about a year ago.”

Every choice has a consequence. So many times people assume that they can avoid the consequences if nothing happens immediately following their choice. Again, according to CNN forensic psychiatrist Donna Schwartz-Watts said Ward is not a pedophile, but rather a childlike victim suffering from personality disorders and a repressed childhood. Schwartz-Watts said the minister’s daughter lived a sheltered life but really was a “free spirit” who never got a chance to break away from her family.

I can’t begin to explain why Ward made the choices she did, but reality is – for the rest of her life she will be marked – not only from her experience in prison, but marked as a sexual predator – which in many ways is far worse than the mark of convicted felon.

According to an AP article, there is a steady drumbeat of sexual misconduct cases involving teachers, at least 15 states are now considering stronger oversight and tougher punishment for educators who take advantage of their students.

A nationwide Associated Press investigation published in October found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct. Experts who track sexual abuse say those cases are representative of a much deeper problem because of underreporting.

The states referenced in the article that are considering significant changes are: California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

No doubt the issue raising national attention today will fuel the fire in South Carolina. In fact, South Carolina has created a new committee of parents, teachers, social workers and prosecutors to study the problem and come back with new ideas.

Though small statistically, the number of abusive teachers is too high, South Carolina Education Superintendent Jim Rex wrote after reading the AP report.

“I am nonetheless outraged by any incident in which an adult entrusted with the care of one of South Carolina’s students violates that student. The ramifications for that student, his or her family, and the community as a whole are painful and long lasting,” he wrote.

As parents, adults and voters we have an obligation to help protect our children from those who would harm them. I educate adults about the new playground where predators abound – the internet – social networking – MySpace and Facebook, but other places for abuse exist. Children have been abused in their church and their school. Neither should happen, but they do. The question is what will we do to protect them.

As always your comments are welcome.

If you live in the Laurens, South Carolina area especially and would like to comment – please do so.


Facebook, Social Networking and Bill Gates – Is it Worth It? Gates Says ‘No’!

February 12, 2008

In the business technology section of the Wall Street Journal blog, Ben Worthen posted a blog about Bill Gates – Microsoft’s Chairman – stopping his use of his Facebook account. The question is – what message does that send? The WSJ Blog is linked here.

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Review: Beyond the obvious issue, receiving a lot of press, related to teens – children and predators – the larger question is adult usage and consequences that might follow. Computerworld posted a great article on The Pitfalls of Social Networking.

The summary is listed below:

  • Too much Bandwidth usage. Downloading and storing these files can cripple your infrastructure and make capacity planning virtually impossible.
  • Potential Legal Liability. Should employees use corporate IT resources for purposes of posting dissatisfaction with others, the company could be held responsible in any ensuing litigation.
  • Exposure to Malware. These networks are potential vehicles for introducing viruses, worms and spyware.
  • Decreased Employee Productivity. Even when networking is used for business purposes, corporations may want to limit the number of networks employees use. Monitoring many networks can become incredibly time-consuming. Moreover, interfaces among current networks don’t support robust information-sharing.
  • Disclosure of Personal Information. Companies regularly search MySpace, Classmates.com, LinkedIn and other social networking sites to glean information about potential hires and competitors.
  • Risk of Leaking Corporate Secrets. Companies often sanction social networking for the purpose of exchanging professional information. But take great care to protect corporate secrets. Definitions of secret may vary or be misunderstood, and critical information may inadvertently be revealed.
  • Limited Executive Use. Executive use of social networking is not widespread, however. Many executives already have substantial personal networks and rely less on new technological platforms for interaction.

According the WSJ blog – “Workers who created profiles on Facebook are horrified to find out they can’t be erased, the New York Times reports. Even if you deactivate your account, Facebook still keeps a copy of all the information you ever posted. And, the Times reports, it’s still possible to contact people through deleted Facebook pages.”

So What’s the Bill Gates Angle? According an article in The Sun:

The computer mogul got so hooked on the social networking site that he splashed out £120million on a 1.6 per cent stake in it last year.

Bill, 52, spent 30 minutes daily catching up with pals.

But he signed off after getting more than 8,000 friend requests a DAY, and spotted weird fan sites about him.

A colleague said: “Sadly the attention does mean Bill has had to close the account which got him so hooked in the first place.”

As a business ethics and teen ethics speaker, (www.chuckgallagher.com), I routinely talk with parents about the pitfalls and dangers of social networking through MySpace – Facebook, etc. While I think social networking is the way of the future, especially among young people, it is important for parents to understand the dynamic change when it comes to child – teen safety. Likewise, it is critical for business people to better understand the issues that come with security and corporate ethics and responsibility.

Have you had an experience with social networking that you’d want to share?

Should parents know more about MySpace and Facebook?

What pitfalls do you see for employees involved in Facebook or MySpace?

Comments are welcome!


Project Safe Childhood – Protecting Children for Sexual Predators – Comments by Teen Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher

February 4, 2008

A program in North Carolina is active in protecting children from sexual predators. Robert Martin Kutzer, age 32 from Leicester, North Carolina, was convicted of online enticement of a minor to engage in an unlawful sex act.

The jury found that Kutzer engaged in several online chat conversations with an undercover detective from the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office in a Yahoo! chat room. Evidence also showed that the defendant believed the detective to be a 14-year-old girl from Buncombe County. The jury heard evidence that Kutzer steered the online conversation to the topic of sex and that the defendant was responsible for injecting explicit and sexually graphic content into the online chat and that the defendant then arranged to meet this person whom he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. Robert Martin Kutzer was taken into custody by United States Marshals following the pronouncement of the verdict on Friday, January 25, 2007.

This federal prosecution was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims.

The online enticement charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years in prison and a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison. In July of 2006 the mandatory minimum penalty for this crime was increased from five to ten years via The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. There is no possibility of parole in the federal system.

There are many concerns in our environment today about social networking – something that adults don’t feel comfortable with in general. Sites such as MySpace and Facebook make it easy for teens to post and share personal information, pictures, and video, which change the environment for the predators to function.

Years back, for most adults with teenage children, we advised our kids to avoid talking to strangers. Frankly, the place(s) where predators sought their prey was limited to physical gathering spots for children and teens. Today, however, the pond is much different. Today, the predator is not limited to the physical location of the kids, they, instead, prey in the much larger pond of the internet. Unfortunately, adults don’t know how to monitor that environment and the kids feel safe at home with their social networking sites – assuming that most people are honest. Reality is that most kids are unsuspecting and vulnerable. Teenage girls are particularly at risk of online sexual exploitation. A recent study by University of New Hampshire researchers for National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found that of the approximately one in seven youth who received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet, 70 percent were girls.

Chuck Gallagher, Ethics Speaker

As a teen ethics speaker (www.chuckgallagher.com) I address teens and young adults about the effects of the choices that they make. Every choice has a consequence. More importantly, however, I have recently begun a series of programs aimed at educating parents about social networking, the internet and how to help keep kids safe. For information contact me at www.chuckgallagher.com.

Project Safe Childhood Press Releases for January 2008:

Comments or questions are welcome!