CROWN POINT - The internet offers a virtually endless stream of information. It also poses serious danger.
Jay Miner of the New York State Police, delivered that message to Crown Point Central School students recently, offering advice on cyber safety.
"Kids have all had computers since they were 5 years old," Miner said. "They're not afraid of them. They'll use every bell and whistle. They'll exploit the technology.
"They understand computers better than most adults, but they lack the life experiences that alert them to danger," he added. "They expose themselves to danger without realizing it."
Miner works in the state police computer crime unit in Ray Brook. That unit was formed in 1992 with two officers. Now it has 40 and needs more, Miner said.
Most adults think of identity theft in relation to internet crime. People think of internet predators with children. There's really no limit to internet crime, Miner explained.
"Harassment to murder, almost all crimes today somehow involve the internet or a cell phone," the investigator said. "Technology is far ahead of law enforcement."
Miner pointed out 1.4 billion people have internet access worldwide. Yet, there is no agency with responsibility for monitoring the web.
"There is no internet police force," he said.
Dangers are lurking all over the internet, especially for young people, Miner stressed.
"Young people are more suspectible to online predators, they get involved in sexting," he said. "The North Country is not exempt from these crimes. Everyone who has a connection to the internet or a cell phone with a camera is at risk."
Miner, addressing grades 6-12, asked students with online access and cell phones to raise their hands. All did.
The investigator urged students to be careful about giving out personal information and placing photos on the internet.
"Once something is posted online you'll never get it back," Miner said. "It's there forever."
Miner also stressed there is no privacy on the internet. Once something is posted it can be found by anyone else.
He also warned students about becoming criminals and victims at the same time. He said many offers, such as illegal music downloads, carry computer viruses and spyware programs. When music is illegally downloaded, he said, computers are often damaged or compromised.
Parents can help protect their children online, Miner said, but keeping computers in a family room where everyone can see it. Filtering software to block inappropriate sites is of little use, he said, since most children can easily get around it. Elaine Dixon, Crown Point principal, said the cyber safety presentation was important for students.
"We just can't ignore the dangers associated with the internet," she said. "We want our students to have a positive digital footprint."
Andrea McDonald, school guidance counselor, urged students to think of internet safety at all times.
"Your safety is important to all of us," she said. "If you use the internet or a cell phone, and you all do, this is an important lesson."