The recent arrest of a youth center employee on charges of sexual abuse has prompted Maryland officials to warn parents about the need to monitor their children’s digital communications.

Anthony Dennis Williams II, of Severn, Md., a former employee at the Fort Meade Youth Center, was arrested Nov. 12 on charges of sexually abusing a minor.

As an employee of the youth center, Williams served as a Child Youth and School-aged Services facilitator and also taught a program called Passport to Manhood, which offered life lessons to juvenile males in the Center, officials said.

According to the criminal complaint against Williams, in at least two instances in 2010 and 2011 he took advantage of his position at the Center and sexually abused two minor males. The 27-year-old held sexually explicit conversations with the victims and exchanged pornographic photographs and videos with the young men via social media sites and text messages, the charging documents state.

The case highlights the need for parents to be vigilant about whom their children are interacting with online and on their phones, officials said.

“Parents must to be relentless about reading children’s text messages and checking their social media accounts,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, who announced Williams’ arrest and indictment along with Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command. “Keep your children’s passwords, read all of their incoming and outgoing messages, and take immediate action if they send or receive inappropriate messages.”

According to the FBI, the Internet has made it much easier for predatory adults to prey on children. Young people tend to deliberately or inadvertently share personal information about themselves, including where they live, their schools, their favorite music or TV programs, which pedophiles can use to establish a connection and gain the child’s trust.

There are an estimated half a million pedophiles online every day.

“Pedophiles go where children are,” noted a May 2011 posting on the FBI’s website. “Before the Internet, that meant places such as amusement parks and zoos. Today, the virtual world makes it alarmingly simple for pedophiles—often pretending to be teens themselves—to make contact with young people.”

Williams faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison if he is convicted.

The investigation is continuing, and anyone who believes they may have relevant information concerning Williams is asked to call the FBI at 410-265-8080, or the Ft. Meade call center at 866-454-9414.

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO