Playing it safe: Internet Crimes Against Children team talking cyber safety at fair

Published: Aug. 2, 2019 at 4:46 PM CDT
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How many parents can relate to this conversation?

"So, we'll talk about phones later, maybe when they're 12 or 13, maybe like middle school, like maybe 7th grade," said Molly Berndt.

Her 10-year-old daughter interrupts her, "Like, seriously, I'm like almost the only one without a phone in my class,"

"Yeah, and I don't care," replied Berndt.

The struggle and pressure of kids keeping up with their friends and parents trying to keep them safe, is real.

"I was raised without a lot of technology, myself and so I kind of feel like they need to just play and be kids," Berndt said.

That can be hard to do in an age where the internet is part of almost everything we do, making it easy for parents to forget how vulnerable kids can be to predators.

"A lot of times they believe the people that are talking to them online," Detective Jon Kindlarski with the Wausau Police Department said.

He explained the Internet Crimes Against Children team in Marathon County, which is made up of officers from the sheriff's office and Wausau Police Department, often talks with kids during school or at youth groups about internet safety. This is the first time they are bringing those conversations to the Wisconsin Valley Fair.

They used a plinko game. The color the chip lands on corresponds with a bag of questions like, "If someone is being mean to you or your friends, what should you do?" There are right and wrong answers, but if the child gives a wrong answer, investigators will explain the right answer and everyone gets a prize.

"Every day there are people who are trying to do bad things to our kids and every day we're trying to take steps to protect our kids, but this is one of those days we can come out and help make our kids stronger, make our families stronger...and help kids before they get hurt," Kindlarski said.

"Honestly, I've never had this conversation with somebody before," said Berndt, "so it's kind of good because it's making me think about it too."

The booth is located in the Exhibition Building and will be at the fair all day Friday.

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