Saturday, May 10, 2008

Online Predators

We’ve covered the inequity of our legal system, the perils of pedophiles using the furry fetish movement to cop feels, using religion to sexually exploit children, the corporate predator and pub predators. It’s been a busy week.

My post today is only meant to serve as a warning, if not for you fine reader, then for your children. I want to discuss online predators, but first let me set the stage…

A man sat hunched over a cluttered desk, eyes glued to a computer monitor. His right index finger moved rhythmically as he clicked his way through a barrage of web pages. He was searching for something special, something he craved in a way he was sure no one else in the world could fathom. His desire grew from a whisper at the back of his thoughts to a scream demanding to be acknowledged and acted upon. It had been weeks since last he played the game. His resolve all but gone, it was time to feed the beast that lurked within the shadows of his mind.

He paused on web page displaying the profile of a perky twenty-something. She had strawberry blonde hair that hung to her shoulders, dark eyes, and her full lips were drawn into a playful pout. He leaned even closer to the screen and ran his finger across her picture, tracing a line around her cheek.

“Ah, there you are, my pretty,” he whispered huskily. “Do you want to come and play with me?”
He tore his gaze from her photograph, quickly scanning through her personal info.
“Hello, Maggie Dugan. Did you use your real name on here?” He harbored a near certainty that she did as he read on. “Broomfield, Colorado. Interesting… How can a woman as young as you afford to live in a place like that? Do you live with your parents? Are you bored? I bet you would love to have a little excitement in your life.”

He quickly scrolled down the page and let out a low chuckle that almost sounded like a growl. “Only twenty-five and yet so alive. Single and looking, what a coincidence.”

He licked his lips in anticipation as he clicked on the link to add her to his “friends list”. If she accepted, he would begin the process of winning over her heart, mind, and eventually, her soul.

“Oh, Miss Maggie, please don’t keep me waiting for long.”
He exited her page and resumed his search, clicking through profile after profile. There was always the chance that Maggie wouldn’t take the bait, and he still had a ravenous hunger to sate after all.

I’m sure you get the picture and I’m also sure you know all of the warning signs that the person wooing you over the internet owns stock in duct tape and loam. The big question is… does everyone in your family know?

When my book The Dance was accepted for publication , I thought it would be a fun idea to create Myspace pages for my hero and villain. It is the page for the villain (Kyle) that brings me to my point. I created a dark themed page and listed his interest as:

Music, sharp objects, duct tape, fishing wire, killing, becoming immortal, fear and let’s not forget the screams. I live for the sweet song of terror realized.


I went on and on about all of the wickedness that made up the character. I even listed his occupation as serial killer. Kyle is a really big, muscular guy. So, I found a picture of bodybuilder that matched the physique I had in my minds eye and posted it as his default picture.

I set him up with a couple of dozen friends, made a few comments and left him alone for a bit. Before long, friend requests were coming in on a fairly regular basis. The vast majority were from girls between the ages of 16 and 21.

It wasn’t long before he was being propositioned by these young women. I would kindly ask them to go back and read over the page again. This was usually enough. Some still persisted until I finally broke down and told them that Kyle was a character from a book.

One particularly eager teenager wrote back and said,” So, you’re into sharp objects, what’s the big deal? Hey, my parents are going away this weekend. How long do you think it would take me to drive from Dallas to Tulsa? Maybe you could teach me how to dance.” Without going into too much detail, Kyle’s definition of a Dance and hers weren’t exactly the same.

She was clearly blinded by biceps.

My point? The predators are out there and unlike Kyle, they’re more than willing to meet with unsuspecting victims. So, parents watch your children. You never know who is really on the other end of that IM or text message.

17 comments:

  1. i chilled me when you first told me the responses kyle got. it still does. my kids want to know why i am so stringent about insisting i have a currently updated list of anyone on their respective friend lists along with phone number and address....this is why.

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  2. oh, and i also require that i know their passwords as well.

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  3. Jeez, James, that's creepy. And what's so scary is that the predator you set up didn't have to lift a finger. If Kyle had been real, his prey would have come to him and eagerly.

    That's insane. Quite an eye-opener.

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  4. Damn, scary world we've created.
    How much do we really handle our realities?
    Thanks for the check, James.

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  5. Excellent blog, James. Scary message.

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  6. Kids like excitement and when you're young you think you'll live forever. How sad, but it's part of our reality.

    Sandy

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  7. A few years back, when my dh worked for our county goverment, they did a reverse of Kyle. They set up a page for 15-yr-old "Tiffany" (in reality my dh and his committee)used a picture from a catalog, then showed all the messages Tiffany got to local parents. It was quite an eye-opener. So yeah, I watch my kids' pages. There's some stuff out there scarier than what we write.

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  8. It's a strange world we live in now. When our two children were growing up they could play outside safely but that was before the internet and the sick minds who haunt it. Thanks for posting this.

    I grew up in a simpler time. The only people who scared me and my brother were the kids who lived on the next street and threatened to beat us up - I can't remember why, Harry and I were lovely children.

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  9. This is a sobering reminder to watch our kids like hawks and keep the internet to a minimum as well as the TV. Very frightening that the teenagers came to him ~head shake~. Minnette

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  10. That sounds like a great way to handle your kids internet exposure, Lime. I have a similar system in place for my son. :D

    That's the part that blows me away, Kelly. Build it and they will come takes on a whole new meaning here.

    It is at that, Aleka. I think maybe it's always been scary, but with technology and faster travel, we've just given the predators amongst us a wider playing field.

    Thanks, Anny. Scary results.

    I couldn't agree more, Sandy. The world is full of wonder and anything bad that happens, surely wouldn't happen to them.

    Oh, yes... I've heard about those websites as well, Cindy. It actually give me a bit of a warm and fuzzy knowing that we are at least doing SOMETHING to curb these sickos.

    Yeah, it's sad really, Anita. I remember leaving the house first thing Saturday morning and not coming back until the sun went down. We'd run, play and make merry. Now, my son has to stay close to the house and check in at least once an hour and he also has to play in groups. Safety in numbers and all that.

    It sure is, Minnette. It makes me wonder how many of them really have slipped off to meet people they met on the internet without actually knowing anything about them.

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  11. Its so true James. That kind of predator stalks you from within...

    Do you know, In India, 10% of girls below 10 years of age are being raped almost everyday by their fathers?

    That kind can also be classified as predators from within, but the internet predators are the worst kind because ,just as you put it, they begin to possess your mind & soul too. Online communication & friendship can turn additive & later obsessive too!

    I'll make my son read this article!

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  12. OMG...James, this is so scary. As the mother of a teenaged daughter, I get seriously creeped by the predators out there. I am fortunate that my daughter is a homebody who is very mature in her thinking. Many times, we've watched To Catch a Predator and just shiver over these creep-o's. Parents must be so diligent.

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  13. I didn't know that, Mona. That is truly horrific...

    The possibility of becoming obsessed with someone online is a definately drawback to our favorite tech advancement. The mind is a powerful thing and even if certain signs are present, we tend to creat mental images of the people on the other side of our messages. Scary times...

    Oh, Regina... I can't even imagine having a teenage daughter in this day and age. I'm overly protective of my son as it is, I can't imagine how I'll be once he is old enough to drive. *shiver*

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  14. My daughter, now 15, once thought that her friends were cool because they cut themselves. She never cut herself, but still she wanted to be with that crowd. It was short-lived, but she snapped out of whatever funk she was in and wised up.

    I go on profile pages from time to time belonging to friends of my children and I see the most incredible things. Grotesque images and talk of suicide. Talk of murder.

    It never makes any sense, but they see something dark and dangerous and they equate it with sexy.

    My other daughter, now 17, had lied on her profile about her age. She was solicited by a man offering her money for naughty pics. That taught her a lesson.

    Parents should be much more vigilante and insist on checking these profile pages--and more so--insist these pages be set to private.

    Great post James. Good warning.

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  15. Thanks, Tess.

    Oh, yeah...there is definately some wild things on these kids pages. Thankfully, I think I've had all but a handful (I have a huge family) of my nieces and nephews educated on why exactly they need to have private profiles.

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  16. isn't it amazing how the minds of some young girls work? i have access to all passwords of anything that my girls go to online. they know that if they refuse to give me access that i can and will strip privileges. i constantly tell them that when they are on the computer to never give out any real information EVER! they are also not allowed to post photos of themselves whatsoever. the older daughter keeps profile private. they can't access any website that i don't know about...they have to ask me first so that i can review it. i do everything i possibly can, but you still wonder if you're doing enough considering the twisted minds of all those sickos out there.

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  17. It is amazing, Ciara. It sounds like you have a pretty good grip in your household though. My hats off to you. There's so many parents out there that still just don't understand how dangerous it is for their children to expose their existance online.

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