Online Predators - Just an Urban Legend?

Filed under: Opinions

child using computerIt's enough to send a chill up any parent's spine: a 14-year-old girl agrees to meet an online friend, presumably another teen, without telling her parents. Only the "teen" turns out to be a 38-year-old man ... and a predator.

To parents and child safety experts, the Internet is a virtual version of a dark and scary wood, where our Little Red Riding Hoods might meet up with the Big Bad Wolf if they take the wrong path. But when a task force of 49 district attorneys recently took a closer look at actual cases of sexual solicitation and abuse, they discovered the the Big Bad Wolf may really be just a fairy tale after all.

"This shows that social networks are not these horribly bad neighborhoods on the Internet," said John Cardillo, a member of the task force. "Social networks are very much like real-world communities that are comprised mostly of good people who are there for the right reasons." When children are solicited, the report says, they're likely to be willing participants. Which honestly doesn't make me feel any better.
Critics say that the information the DAs used is outdated, and that companies are responsible for making their online applications safer for kids.

As both a parent and a user of social networking sites, this is report a great relief to me. Yet when my kids are old enough to surf the Internet alone, I'll still keep safety measures in place -- a family computer in a central location, no personal information published online, etc. The Big Bad Wolf may indeed be just a legend, but there's also no point in inviting trouble.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.