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Justice Department warns 'tweens' to beware predators

Julie is 16. She's a cute brunette who is, by her own account,"built" - but see for yourself on her MySpace page. There are lotsof pictures, some pretty racy. She attends Sevier County High School(for directions, just hit mapquest.com).

Talking points to lure her? Those are on MySpace, too:

She feels "stuck" in Tennessee's Sevier County. She's the productof divorced parents. Loves mom; dad, not so much. She loves any styleof music "with a good beat" and swoons over guys "with cheesysmiles." She has a brother, two sisters and four step-siblings.

Julie probably thinks she's too smart to fall prey to some Internetpredator. Her mom probably thinks so, too. But U.S. Attorney RussDedrick isn't so sure.

"They get lured into these things," Dedrick said. "They thinkthey're safe, that they're in control. They can block this person. Butby then they've already been exposed."

On Friday, the Department of Justice kicked off a new message forits year-old Project Safe Childhood initiative, which targetsprimarily Internet sexual predators via coordinated local, state andfederal law enforcement and prosecution efforts.

This year's campaign will zero in on the increasingly vulnerable"tween" and teen girl who view social networking sites on theInternet as veritable billboards where she can tout her looks, herbeliefs, her likes, her dislikes and, more importantly, her personal"stats."

"Anytime (sexual predators) have the ability especially to get apicture and a location, that's going to be problematic," saidKnoxville Police Department Investigator Tom Evans.

Evans is a key member of the Knoxville Internet Crimes AgainstChildren Task Force, which pairs local law enforcement, stateprosecutors, federal prosecutors and federal agencies to battle a hostof Internet-based crimes ranging from downloading child pornography toluring child victims.

"Most parents feel, 'It can't happen to my child,' " he said.

Worse, Dedrick and Evans said, most girls ages 12 to 17 think itcan't happen to them. After all, on social networking sites such asMySpace, they can limit who sees their pages to invited "friends."The problem is, according to Dedrick, the number of "friends" aperson can gather has become a measure of popularity. As Evans noted,once a girl welcomes in a "friend," that person's entire list of"friends" also gets access to the girl's personal page and therebypersonal information and photographs. Before she knows it, thousandsof people she's never met have a key to unlock her Internet world.

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