Friday, June 30, 2006

NateMail: Internet Predators

Brenda asks: My 14-year old daughter has been chatting in an online chatroom and i think she's being approached by someone who claims to be an older married man. is it illegal for him even to be in the chatroom? and is it tecnically illegal for him to ask for things like a phone number? or can these people just do whatever the hell they want as long as they don't meet these teenagers in real life?

The short answer is yes. They can do or say anything they want. In fact, its excedingly difficult to prosecute them, even if they DO meet your child in person. Legally they have to demonstrate intent. Simply showing up at the meeting place is not enough. In sting operations they usually work out a deal with the pederasts. For example the bait offers a particular sexual activity in return for a specific action taken by the perp. Often the cops will get the guy to undress completely before they arrest him. Lets face it... you didn't get naked to play checkers right? On the otherhand, the defenses are powerful, assuming they didn't get naked. "I didn't really think it was a kid, I thought we were roleplaying." and so forth. Meeting a 14-year old kid is not a crime, nor is befriending one. Now... its BS... and everyone knows it... but you can't go around arresting everyone who chats... much as I would like to.

My advice is to remove your daughter's computer privilages completely. Then use her account to chat with the guy. See how far he is trying to take it. If need be agree to meet him in a park late at night... say you're sneaking out of the house and your parents won't know... make the necessary promises... get him all riled up.... Of course... the only thing he'll actually find at that park that night will be your pissed off husband... and maybe the ass-kickin' of a lifetime will convince him to change his ways.

Now... as for the long term solution...


MySpace is the devil. Chatrooms are the devil. No way. No how. Never. There is nothing there but sex and gossip and more sex. There is no legitimate reason for your kid to access it. Its rather like allowing your kid to get together with their friends at the local adult book store.

But mom! All my friends are there!

Kids don't need computers. Its BS. For the vast majority of the population, computers are toys, not tools. If she needs a computer for school, give her one with no internet connection. If she needs to research, allow her to use yours, while supervised.

A few months of this will teach her a lesson... but if you do return her internet privilages (and I wouldn't) spy on her continually. Buy the best admin software you can find. Log every keystroke. Cache every page. Save every conversation. The best advice is to perhaps install PCAnywhere... so you can periodicly sit there and watch her screen remotely, as she's chatting.

Imagine her fury when you take her off to your room and display her chat window on your monitor.

Yes. She'll hate you. She's 14. If she doesn't hate you you aren't doing your job.

(and Brenda, don't take this as talking down to you, from your question I deduce that you do most of this already, otherwise you wouldn't know about her chat buddy.)

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