State officials are warning Iowa parents to keep an eye on the web sites their kids are visiting. Iowa’s governor has declared this “Keeping Children Safe on the Internet Awareness Week.”

Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation director Gene Meyer says the state has three computer labs on the Des Moines Area Community Colleges campus in Ankeny that are used by investigators to try to track down Internet predators.

Meyer says the project started in January, and has already yielded arrests.
“We’ve been involved in 33 cases thus far that are directly related to the possession of child pornography,” Meyer says. “We’ve also been involved to date in eight pro-active investigations where we have either found people who are solicited young people on the Internet or we have posed as someone on the Internet and we have been solicited.”

Meyer says the D-C-I has experts, trained in “computer forensics,” who can find information criminals think they’ve deleted from their computers, but is still on the hard drive. Meyer says a recent study found one in five children have been approached over the Internet in the past year and asked to engage in sex.

While the state has a task force to track these sorts of crimes, Meyer says parents are the first line of defense. “Know what your children are doing on the computer,” Meyer says. “Talk to your children…Are they really on there on a foreign language website enhancing their Spanish skills or are they doing something else?” Meyer recommends a C-D Rom that helps teach children about Internet safety. You can find it at www.netsmart.org.