LAGRANGE, Ind. (WANE) – One kidnapping victim of an online predator shared her experience with students and parents at Prairie Heights Middle School Wednesday.
Alicia Kozak was a victim of an online predator at 13 years old. She was one of the first known cases of someone being kidnapped by an online predator. Now, she speaks to young adults and parents on how to avoid the dangers of the internet.
“I say to the kids, do miracles happen every day? Sure. Maybe in the world, they happen every day. Do they happen to every single person every day? Absolutely not. And that’s why we have to be careful because stories like this often don’t have a good ending,” Kozak said.
Kozak is a nationally known speaker who travels around the world sharing The Alicia Project. It’s a platform that educates people on internet safety and awareness.
Kozak shared her story Wednesday night with parents of how she was lured by a man from her home in Pittsburgh, driven to Virginia, tortured, and chained in his basement.
The presentation was held at Prairie Heights Middle School. Kozak shared the following tips with parents on how to keep their children safe:
- Know that this can happen to you
- Educate yourself on the language children use, emojis, and know the apps
- Monitor what your kids are doing
- Let your child know that they can come to you about anything without judgment
Kozak also spoke with students earlier in the day.
“Kids have the ability and the responsibility to protect themselves. Parents, teachers, law enforcement, everybody can do everything to try to keep them safe but they’re the ones who make the choices,” Kozak said. “Listen to your gut, listen to the intuition, and how to make good choices.”
Kozak said it’s important for students to know what to look out for and how to keep themselves safe from online predators, pointing out that it can be hard to tell if someone is who they say they are.
“If you don’t know what’s dangerous, you can’t protect yourself from it. So we have to talk to kids about the real-world dangers that they are facing today,” Kozak said.
Read more on the Alicia Project and how to avoid online predators here.