Online Predators

on April 5, 2007

I have this post filed under “We Can’t Make This Stuff Up,” but the truth is–we can. And did.

I read a report last night titled, “Police: Teen raped by man met on MySpace.”

While there are a lot of questions raised about whether they really had sex (i.e. intercourse) or something else, whether it was consensual (statutory rape) or not, this situation highlights the fact that girls are being stupid about their safety.

This 13 year old kid snuck out of her house to meet the 20 year old guy. I’ll admit, when I was a teenager I did sneak out of my house on occasion. It wasn’t to have sex, it was usually to go T-P someone’s house (when I was a young teen) or partake in adult beverages (when I was an older teen). I did stupid things, most of us did.

But going home with strangers wasn’t one of them. It wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. Yet over and over, young girls are putting themselves out on the Internet and meeting these guys without knowing how old they really are, whether they’re safe, or what might happen to them.

This really stuck out for me:

The girl, who was not identified, is apparently one of 51 “friends” on his MySpace page, many of whom are young girls, some posing in their underwear.

“Most of the time, these girls don’t know what they’re getting into,” Groneman said. “And that’s part of the problem.”

Hello! Sound familiar? In Speak No Evil the first victim had posted sexually explicit material on her MyJournal page, but she at least tried to remain anonymous. These girls–in real life–are posing in their underwear and not even hiding their identity.

I remember an episode of CSI a couple years back. Katherine Willows young teen-ager daughter Lindsay had basically dressed “up” and put on tons of make up and was in an undesirable part of town–essentially acting and looking like a tramp, as my mom would say. Lindsay had been getting out of control and Katherine was at her wit’s end. Also on her plate was a dead girl–an underage prostitute killed in the same area where Lindsay had been picked up. Katherine showed Lindsay the dead body to scare some sense into her. Lindsay broke down crying and ran off, and the coroner (his name slips my mind) was furious with her for bringing her daughter in and exposing her to that kind of violence and trauma.

But I sided with Katherine. Sometimes kids, particularly if they are already going down that path, need a wake-up call. Look, kids, your actions have consequences. This is what could happen if you keep up this behavior. Maybe showing them a dead body is overkill, but I think sometimes we don’t know what to do.

The Internet is a dangerous place but it appears safe on the surface. Sharing that bad stuff happens might save lives.

On a much, much happier note . . . FEAR NO EVIL hit #10 on the New York Times list. Yeah!