The Sex Trafficking Community Awareness Conference specifically geared for the  public was held in the University Center Theater all day Thursday.

Presenting the topic ‘Sexual Exploitation via the Internet’ was Agent Gary Seder with the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation, Montana Department of Justice. Because he is still actively working undercover, Seder specifically asked not to be photographed for his own safety.

Seder said he tries to reach children when they are very young to point out the dangers of the internet.

“We do a lot of presentations to the schools through ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce) and we go in and just try to teach awareness,” said Seder. “We talk to students as young as the third grade all the way up through high school and give them different levels of presentations about what the dangers really are. Just because you sent that one photo through Snapchat or through the internet through Facebook Messenger, doesn’t mean it’s in the hands of just one person.”

Seder said the photo is also loaded onto a server that can be accessed by sex traffickers all over the world, who may use that photo to coerce a child or an adult into further contact.

“We’re starting to see a lot of people getting money out of folks,” he said. “They’ll say, ‘listen, if you don’t pay me $500.00 I’m going to post that photo, and some people are paying. What’s going to happen after that? They’re just going to want more money. It’s NOT going to end.”

Seder said unsupervised time on the internet can be dangerous or even deadly for a child or a teenager.

“It always surprises me is that within five minutes to three hours, these guys can start communication with a young girl and have nude photos of her, or potentially have her talked into meeting them somewhere with all the promises of video, modeling or being famous. They have a lot of tricks that they try.”

Seder’s advice is for parents to become familiar with all the features on your child’s smart phone, and to carefully monitor their internet use.

Also appearing at the conference was a mother of a sex trafficking victim and the video entitled ‘I Am Jane Doe’ on Thursday evening, followed by a panel discussion.