Predators Lurking On The World Wide Web
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's cyber tip-line is 1-800-843-5678.
A 15-year-old girl disappears from her bedroom in the middle of the night. The next morning, her frantic mother contacts police. Immediately, police boot up the teen's computer and the trail leads to an online social networking site. This is a real story and it's more common than you think: teens being lured online by sexual predators and in some cases, never coming back.
In recent months, social networking sites such as Xanga, MySpace and Facebook have frequented news headlines, and police say face-to-face meetings between adults and teens who chat online are on the rise. The power of the Internet has taken over social interaction, and blogging sites are the fastest growing websites in the country.
Teenagers, and even tweens, are gaining unprecedented access to a wide range of social networks, creating accounts and posting private details about their lives - details that cops say make teens an easy target for sexual predators.
Teens Falling Prey All Over The Country
Last year, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported more than 1,200 incidents of online enticement. NCMEC estimates that one out of five children get solicited online by an adult.
In Oregon, a 16-year-old girl was enticed by someone she thought was a 24-year-old guy. They talked online and gradually started talking on the phone and sending text messages. Soon, the 16-year-old agreed to meet her new friend in person. But, Suffolk County, N.Y. officials say when she went to greet him at the airport, she soon found out that the guy she thought was 24 was actually 37-year-old Frederick Stahl.
Connecticut seems to be a hotspot for online enticement of young girls by older men. Back in 2002, a 13-year-old Connecticut girl was strangled in a mall parking lot by a 26-year-old man she met on the Internet. Now, authorities in the state are investigating seven cases of sexual assault of minor females by men who found the teens online. Several girls, between 12 and 16 years old told police they met men online who claimed to be teenagers. But, when the girls met the men in person, the girls were fondled or had consensual sex with men who turned out to be older than they claimed.
Unfortunately, these are just a few examples of how children have fallen prey within the sexual predator's playground -- the Internet.
Handing Over The Key
Richard Williams was arrested in North Carolina.
Online, teens chat about everything from friends to social lives, sports and after-school activities. Most teens think they are having totally innocent conversations, but they are also posting pictures and personal information, such as their full name, school, sports teams, phone numbers and even addresses. But what some teens don't realize is that there is a hidden danger, and that they are just dangling bait in front of a predator. In a sense, online predators can test the odds and shop for their next vulnerable victim.
Take the latchkey child, for example. In the past, parents were relieved to know that their child was safe at home, but now, sometimes the trouble is just beginning since predators can reach across cyber space and into what should be a teen's safe haven. Multitasking teenagers use the Web not just for school activities but also to maintain friendships and a social life. Looking for acceptance, many teens explore social boundaries online in what seems to be a safe environment. But, most are unaware of those with cruel intentions.
Stopping Predators Online And In Real Life
Now, law enforcement officers across the country are fighting back and teaming up to take down online predators one at a time.
In New Jersey, Glenn Coyle, a middle school security guard from Brooklyn, N.Y. boarded a New Jersey Transit train, planning to meet a 13-year-old girl he found on MySpace.com. Instead, Coyle was met by police and charged with attempted sexual assault of a minor.
A well-known NASCAR publicist Richard Williams, was arrested in the parking lot at a church where he had arranged to meet what he believed to be a 15-year-old girl he met online. Instead, he was met by police and arrested.
What Can You Do?
Talk to your kids.
Tell them about the dangers they face online.
Learn about blogs and social networking websites.
Monitor the websites your children visit online.
Use password protection on your home computer.
Put the computer in a common area of your home.
Check your child's website and online accounts and make sure they are only using it with friends.
To learn more about online enticement of children, click here.
What Can Kids Do?
Use password protection.
Only talk to people you know online.
Only post basic information; never give out your full name, city, school, phone number or address.
To learn more about what teens can do, click here.
To learn about what kids can do, click here.