A Birmingham-area man’s Facebook page contained objectionable and possibly illegal material pertaining to boys under the legal age, police reported. None of the material or people connected to the page as “friends” appeared to be from the local area.
Local authorities relayed the information to the FBI Tuesday. They reported the Facebook page in question had been removed later that day.
The man’s name has been withheld since he has not been charged with a crime.
The tip was relayed by Tony Hood, a fugitive recovery agent. Hood said Wednesday he discovered the page through a Facebook account set up to track fugitives and other people of interest.
He said the man listed his age in the early twenties, but found out he was actually was in his mid-forties.
“He started becoming ‘friends’ with a lot of young boys,” Hood said.
Although no area residents were directly involved, Sgt. Rondell Muse of the police department’s investigation division said parents should stay aware of who their children interact with online. He said some ways to do that were ensuring privacy settings were properly set on social networking sites and watching who their children allowed into their personal network.
“Kids need to be instructed by their parents not to share any personal information whatsoever,” Muse said. “A lot of these predators out here are trying to get to kids and they do it online. If parents are comfortable with who their kids are friends with, it will go a long way in keeping them safe.”
Muse added the police department was available for anyone who had concerns a child had been contacted by an online predator. Also, most websites or chatrooms allow users to report any potential violations they see.
Muse also asked parents to be vigilant in participating in their children’s online activities.
“Kids are going to be kids,” he said. ‘They may tell you and they may not. But as long as you know that you are looking and you are comfortable with whom they are dealing with, then everything should be OK.”
People can also receive more information on the subject through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Their website contains resources for families and child safety tips, as well as a way to report predators though the Cyber Tipline.
John Shehan, executive director for the exploited children division, said law enforcement had access to all tips received through their tip line. They also work closely with the Internet Crimes Division Task Force, which has an office in Alabama.
Shehan said they had received their one millionth report on the tip line this week, since its inception in 1998.
He spoke about what he called “the evolution of the Internet.” He said social networking sites had given users more freedom with a wider variety of features but also brought new concerns.
“It is a nice location where you can use a chat feature, you can post pictures and videos, you can post messages and you can link to other individuals,” Shehan said. “So it is very convenient as far as communicating and connecting with people around the globe, but it also makes it easy for individuals who have a sexual interest in children to find them and try to exploit them.”
He added how important it was for people, especially young people, to use privacy settings to the fullest.
“Some teens will take inappropriate photographs or post too much information online,” Shehan said. “They can treat some of their profiles and accounts like a daily blog with running lists of what they are doing, what they are thinking and where they are going. And you need to make sure that is not available for the entire world to view.”
To learn more, go to www.ncmec.org or call 1-800-843-5678.