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The Prillamans' video encourages all parents to join their crusade. "Parents vs. Predators: Internet Safety," a 53-minute video intended for parents and concerned adults, shares their story and teaches parents how to keep their kids safe.

Mike Zerby, Star Tribune

Parents vs. predators

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY
  • Star Tribune
  • November 9, 2011 - 7:52 AM

Brooklyn Park Fire Chief Ken Prillaman didn't know who the predator was or what he looked like. But Prillaman knew there was a predator in his home. And he was after Prillaman's teenage daughter.

Four years ago, Chelsey Prillaman, now 17 and a senior at Maple Grove High School, began having on-line conversations with someone she assumed was a boy her age with similar interests. Then her family received a call from the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and learned that Chelsey was actually conversing with an adult man who was stalking her.

The Prillamans also learned that another Internet stalker -- this time, a teenage boy -- had been following Chelsey.

"By the time teenagers realize it, they've become entangled with these predators," Ken Prillaman said. "National experts believe there are 750,000 Internet predators -- and they're trying to lure our children into compromising situations."

The Prillamans are fighting back and encouraging all parents to join their crusade. "Parents vs. Predators: Internet Safety," a 53-minute video intended for parents and concerned adults, shares their story and teaches parents how to keep their kids safe.

The movie will premiere Saturday, 7 p.m., at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

The Prillamans learned that predators use a series of techniques in which they groom an image that closely mirrors a victim's likes and interests that have been exposed for the world to read on Facebook, Myspace, tweets and chat room pages. The predators view pictures of their victims but rarely post actual pictures of themselves. Their arsenal includes computers, smart phones, any Internet-enabling device.

"These kids are often talking to predators from the safety net of our homes," said Debbie Prillaman, Chelsey's mother. "When I found out what was happening to Chelsey, I was so devastated ... that I wanted to curl up in a ball in the corner.

"I wanted to wrap my arms around my daughter -- and this was happening just a few feet away."

Often, a parent who suspects an Internet predator finds themselves trying to shield a teenager who sees no reason to warrant protection. Many teenagers get caught up in the excitement of talking to a stranger they want to embrace as a new friend.

"It's almost like I was addicted," Chelsey Prillaman said of the Internet conversations she was having with someone she knew nothing about, but who seemed to know everything about her.

"It's exciting at first. But you don't know who's on the other end of the conversation."

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419

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