A sexual predator in Connecticut that used MySpace to meet his 12-15 year old female victims is going to jail for 20 years, according to this television news source. While this might not be the first incidence of a sexual predator linked to a social networking site being sentenced, it is the first I’ve heard about.
As all of you readers know – I believe using age and identity verification on social networking sites will help protect kids. But certainly it isn’t the silver bullet. It is only one piece of the solution. Other pieces include law enforcement bringing to trial accused predators and then punishing those convicted, and parents being aware and involved.
Does your child have a MySpace account? Do you know what’s on their profile? Do you know who they are chatting with?
In a link related to this news story, the television station gives characteristics of an online predator and offers tips to parents on how to protect your children. Because I think these are very important for you to know I don’t want to rely just on you clicking this link to see the information, I’m republishing it in this post:
Characteristics of an Online Predator
- Most commonly male
- 30 to 65 years old
- Has a middle- to upper-middle class lifestyle
- Usually a college graduate
- Commonly married in the past or is currently married
- Often has children of his own that are older than the children he is chatting with
How Sexual Predators Communicate
- Web sites
- Public and private chat rooms
- Instant messaging programs
Police say the ultimate goal of an Internet predator is to meet their victim face-to-face and the predator will say and do anything in order to do so.
Steps Predators Take to Meet Victims
- Appear familiar: They will mold themselves into something appealing and interesting to the child.
- Develop trust: Listen to the child and sympathize with his/her problems.
- Establish secrecy: Encourages the child to keep their relationship a secret.
- Remove sexual barriers: Feeds off sexual curiosity and slowly introduces sexual content or pictures, commonly done using Web cameras.
- Direct intimidation: Make threats if the child attempts to stop communication or refuses to meet in person.
How To Protect Your Child
- Put the computer in an open space
- Do not allow computers in the child’s bedroom
- Explain that the use of the Internet is a privilege
- Outline family rules concerning the use of the Internet
- Ask your child they know about the Internet, which chat rooms they use, how many screen names they have and how many profiles they have on the Internet
- Ask your child to see their profile and buddy lists
- Stay calm and talk to your child without making accusations. Explain to him/her that if they get a picture, or if someone says something that makes them feel uncomfortable, to tell someone
- Explain that they will not get in trouble for telling a parent