By Hillary S. Meeks
Killeen Daily Herald
Protecting children from Internet predators and gangs was the focus of a presentation given by two Fort Hood Family Advocacy employees at Shoemaker High School Tuesday night as part of the Killeen Independent School District's School Safety Week.
But other school activities seemed to have distracted from the safety presentation, and no parents showed for the informative event.
"There is no good night to schedule things in high school," said Betty Hermosillo, coordinator of the event and sophomore principal for Shoemaker.
Nonetheless, Internet safety expert Heather House and Sgt. Keith Morrow of the Emergency Service Community Policing Branch shared their knowledge on how to keep kids out of harm's way.
"The Internet is probably the most dangerous place for children and teens today," House said.
House said parents can do their part by ensuring the computer is situated somewhere in the home where the parents can see the monitor at all times. Also, knowing Internet lingo and acronyms will help a parent understand what their children may be doing on instant messaging. A good link for this information is www.leetspeak.com.
For more information about Internet safety, contact House at (254)287-1763.
In fact, the Internet can even be used to lure youth into gangs – that's how much the world has changed, said Morrow. Though he was once a gang member in Los Angeles, the law enforcement officer said gangs today have changed and it's harder to tell who is and isn't in one.
"There is a presence here (in the Killeen area), but to the extent of how large it is, no one could say because they are not organized. If they get organized – which is what we're trying to prevent here – that's when we have a problem," Morrow said.
He said parents can be proactive in preventing their child's involvement in a gang by providing positive support, being a good role model, talking to the child about gangs, knowing their child's friends and making sure the child has responsibilities, consequences and consistency at home.
If parents suspect their child may be involved in a gang, they should look for tattoos, a change in attitude, poor scholastic achievement, extra money and a tendency towards truancy.
For more information about gangs and a program called Upward Challenge, geared toward at-risk youth, call Morrow at (254) 287-4752.