MySpace- Is it Safe for Kids?
Like most parents, we want to trust our teenagers and believe that we are protecting them from harm. Little did we know that with My Space, supposedly a site for teenagers to chat and intermingle, would create a state of panic and alarm in our household!
We had a computer in our family room where all the family had access, Later, we moved it into an office where the computer was still accessible, only that we were not moving about the room while our teenager was using it.
I noticed one afternoon while walking into the office; the door was closed and as I walked in our teenager minimized the screen so that I could not see what was going on. Immediately a red flag went up in my mind and I asked, “What are you doing?” The reply was, “I am talking to my friends and it is a private conversation.” At the time, I did not give it much thought only in our family we do not keep secrets. Still, I had this feeling that was hard to explain, I just knew that something was going on. Now I know… (The Holy Ghost was letting me know something was going on that I needed to know about)!
I began to watch more closely what was going on day by day and noticed a pattern. When I questioned our teenager, they became more defensive and began to tell me they were corresponding with someone from out of state that used to go to school with them. (This was a member of the opposite sex.) I felt, well it must be a school “crush” so I began to relax a little and think, “so that is what all this secrecy was all about.” My teenager even took me to the “My Space” site and showed me a picture of this teenager. I did not remember seeing this particular person, but did not think much about it. The kid was cute and I could see why there would be an attraction.
Still, I asked questions about this person and what type of family did they belong to, and from the response I knew this was someone with whom they had just met. I also began to see long distance phone calls on the cell phone and asked, “Who were they to”, and the response was that “it was from this person from out of state.”
Later, while planning our family vacation for the summer, in which we were taking one of our teenager’s friends along for companionship. Another red flag went up when my teenager wanted to know a specific day and time that we were going on vacation and also what day we were planning on going to a major tourist attraction. At that time, I told them, “I was unsure, that a lot depended on the weather”.
It was at that time I decided to do some investigating. I knew I had to get onto the computer and read what was going on between my teenager and this person from out of state. I was able to get into our computer through a program that let me read everything that was going on, what sites they visited, what they were looking at, who they were talking through instant messages, and also the e-mails that were written. The vulgarity that was sent to my teenager from this person sent the blood boiling through my veins and I knew this was not a teenager, but a much more mature and experienced person that was sending these messages to our teenager. I knew I had to put an end to it once and for all.
I learned my teenager had told this person they did not know what day they would be at the tourist attraction nor the time. Apparently, this did not set so well with them, because they were planning on meeting our teenager there and spending some time together as my husband and I were going to let the teenagers ride various rides while we shopped. We were keeping in touch with the teenagers via cell phones in case they needed us.
As I read the messages: I knew from the language this was not a teenager, but a sick, demented, person! A feeling of panic went through me and immediately I knew I had to find out who this person was and where they were located. I called the police department in our local town and was able to talk to a detective in the Internet Crime Prevention section. I found out through the detective in order to prosecute a person via the internet for a crime, you had to prove that either this person was having sex with a minor either via computer, telephone, or trying to set up a meeting for sex or was trying to do harm to another person through selling drugs, etc.
I explained that I had some e-mails, but that my teenager was not aware nor did they understand some of the language this person was using and asked them to explain what this meant or that meant, (sexual in nature).
The detective wanted me to send him everything I had regarding this person. He told me after reading the e-mails and instant messages, then he would determine if we could prosecute for it.
As we found out, this person was a pedophile: (which means an adult whom preys on young children and teenagers and who has a criminal record of sexual molestation).
Later we found out, they were looking for this particular person who also had a criminal record of rape, drugs, alcohol, robbery, etc. We were able to locate him through the internet service, bring charges against him, and have him put away for this crime, plus a long list of others that this person was wanted for.
I have taken the internet service out of my home. We do not have text messages on the cell phone any longer and we have also taken cable TV out of our home. I want to protect my family in any way that I can from this happening again. I am not saying that I will never have internet again, as it is a useful tool in school. What I am stressing, is that every parent should be aware at all times what their child or teenager is doing on the computer. Be in the same room as your child while they are on the computer. Watch what they are doing and especially be aware if they are keeping things from you. This was our first clue that something was going on! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and if you feel your child is doing something or trying to hide it from you, find out by buying a spyware program for your computer that lets you see all e-mails, instant messages, and various sites visited.
I have found out after much investigating, MySpace does not screen the members, nor does it have any type of verification that tells them if either this child or that child is 8 or 80, nor is it a “kids or teenagers” only site! Anyone can say they are 15 and get on without any problem whatsoever. My teenager listed themselves as 15, when in fact they were 13! Supposedly, you cannot become a member unless you are 15!
The detective who helped on our case told me that MySpace was a danger zone for children and teenagers alike for pedophile’s, (such as what preyed on our teenager), who were out there waiting to trap them; for example: by displaying pictures of a much younger person, someone who is attractive and who says all the things a child or teenager wants to hear, perhaps offering money, gifts, electronics, vacations, jewelry, etc..
I pray that all parents who read this will pay particular attention to what is going on online with your children and teenagers. Do not be afraid to ask questions, and if possible do not have the computer out of the family room where it is accessible at all times by everyone.
My prayer is that anyone who has children or teenagers and also has the internet is to be aware of what your child is doing at all times on the internet. If you have suspicions, please do not be afraid to contact your local law enforcement in your town to investigate; who knows, it may save your child’s life!
From, “Pentecostal Voice of Tennessee”/February 2008/Page 4-5, by an unnamed author.
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