Gonzales Announces Ad Campaign to Help Protect Children Online

Steve Javors
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department have partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the Ad Council for a series of public service announcements called Project Safe Childhood, which aims to raise teens’ awareness of the dangers of posting personal information online.

A significant portion of the campaign, which is set to commence early next year, is specifically targeted toward teenage girls with the message of protecting themselves from online predators by not posting images or information that puts them at risk from online predators.

“The existence of online predators is a very real threat for children using the Internet,” Gonzales said at the 18th annual Crimes Against Children Conference in Dallas. “This ad campaign will raise awareness to help safeguard against sexual exploitation and abuse by encouraging children to protect their identities and images when socializing online.”

According to a Justice study, one in seven children who use the Internet have been sexually solicited, one in three was exposed to unwanted sexual material and one in 11 was sexually harassed.

The public service campaign has taken a three-tiered approach to getting the word out, releasing tailored messages to three different audiences that could be affected by online predators. Following the success of the previous two PSA initiatives, Justice and its partners are working on the third installment.

The initial campaign in 2004 called “Help Delete Online Predators,” focused on educating parents about the pitfalls of not monitoring their children’s online activities. The second series of public service announcements was released in 2005 and warned teenage girls about forming online relationships with people they did not know. The series of ads, called “Don’t Believe the Type,” warned teens of the savvy online predators use into tricking them to meet in person or give up personal information.

“A recent survey shows a large increase in the proportion of youth posting personal information and pictures online so this is a timely campaign,” President and CEO of NCMEC Ernie Allen said. “Our partnership with the Department of Justice will help us address this potential threat to kids by educating teens about how this activity could put them at risk for victimization.”

Ensuring the financial backing to further its cause, Justice has awarded close to $14 million in grants to the Internet Crimes Against Children program. The ICAC is a national network of 46 regional offices dedicated to stomping out child exploitation online. Each U.S. Attorney has partnered with their local ICAC office to bring awareness to Project Safe Childhood.