Sexual Predators Online

Readers — As much as parents worry about predators behind the petunias, they worry about predators behind the pixels, too. danah boyd has researched the validity of those  online fears. Not only does her book, “It’s Complicated,” seem totally spot-on, but she is reviewed by the equally remarkable and culture-changing Peter Gray in this post on his Psychology Today blog. I have a section from Peter’s book, Free to Learn, that is mindblowing, too — stay tuned for that post!  Meantime, enjoy Gray’s take on Boyd’s book (with even a shout-out to Free-Range Kids!):

Myth #4: Social media put teens at great risk from sexual predators.

In a nationwide survey, boyd and her colleagues found that 93 percent of parents were concerned that their child might meet a stranger online who would hurt them, while only one percent of them indicated that any of their own children had ever had such an experience. By far the biggest fear expressed by parents was of “sexual predators,” “child molesters,” “pedophiles,” and “sex offenders” who might contact their child through their online participation. This mirrors the fears, revealed in other national and international surveys, that underlie many parents’ decisions to restrict their children from venturing away from home, outdoors, without adult protection. Surprisingly, the respondents to boyd’s survey expressed as much fear for their sons as for their daughters.

As I and others (e.g. Lenore Skenazy in her book Free Range Kids) have reported elsewhere, the “stranger danger” fears that afflict so many parents are greatly overblown. In fact, harm of any kind to children or teens from adult strangers is very rare, and there is little or no evidence that technology or social media has increased such danger. As boyd (p 110) puts it: “Internet-initiated sexual assaults are rare—and the overall number of sex crimes against minors has been steadily declining since 1992—which suggests that the internet has not created a new plague.” Of course, teens and children should all be cautioned about such possibilities, and we should discuss common-sense ways of preventing it with them, but the danger is so small that it is irrational to ban our children from social media because of it.

The fact is, child molestation is far more likely to be perpetrated by people who are well known to the child, such as relatives, trusted family friends, priests, and teachers, than by strangers. Again, in boyd’s (p 110) words: “Although lawmakers are happy to propose interventions that limit youth’s rights to access online spaces, they have not proposed laws to outlaw children’s access to religious institutions, schools, or homes, even though these are statistically more common sites of victimization.”

Read the rest of the review here!

Beware of online predator (statistics).

Beware of online predator (statistics).

, , , , , , , , ,

79 Responses to Sexual Predators Online

  1. Reziac February 16, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

    Stats on predatory sex crimes show two precipitous drops:

    The first in the late 1980s, when dialup BBSs became widespread and were commonly a source for low-grade porn images.

    The second and much larger drop around 1996, when the internet became widely available, allowing access to a much larger selection of porn.

    People who feel a need will get their fix one way or another. Getting a porn fix online is easy and relatively risk-free; why bother to chase kids??

  2. SOA February 16, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    I would think this is more of a real fear than worrying about the kidnapper lurking in the bushes waiting to snatch your child the minute you take your eye off him/her.

    For the internet criminals seek out kids and have certain ways over courting them over long period of time and coaxing them into sending nude pictures or meeting them. They can pretend to be a peer or someone they know and the kid does not realize they are lying.

    I watch that Catfish movie and show and yeah, if adults (albeit stupid gullible adults) can fall for it so can kids.

    I am not 100% sure how we will handle this since it is all new to me as far as I never had internet as a kid. I think we will keep the computer in the living room so I can monitor them to a point. Also would probably require them to friend me on facebook so I can see what they are up to. Will still give them privacy but want them to realize I can and will check up on them sometimes.

  3. SOA February 16, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

    ps- I have as an adult had people online stalk me and find out my identity in an anonymous forum. So it does make me realize how easy it is to track someone in that fashion.

  4. hineata February 16, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

    Once again, the kids really in danger from the net are not our safe suburban types – they’re the kids used by sickos, sometimes their own parents or guardians, as ‘models’ for the sick photos (and worse) that I would prefer not to know were out there.

    As for anyone tracking our kids down, Dolly, while I can believe what you say about it being theoretically possible to track someone down, why would anyone bother? Like everyone else here I love my own kids, and I personally think they’re gorgeous, but I cannot for a moment conceive of anyone else wanting to come and get them…..There are kids everywhere – why would anyone ‘from the net world’ go to the trouble of going after mine?

  5. Maggie Moon February 16, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

    As I have said so many times before, you are a breath of sanity in a tornado of fear and hysteria! Thank you!

  6. Warren February 16, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

    Why would a predator who lives by being in the shadows, want to track someone online? Any tracking they do, can then be tracked back to them. Eliminating their best weapon, being invisible.

  7. Carolyn February 16, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    From personal hearsay, “online sexual predators” are usually encountered in chat rooms when young girls are already looking for a hook up or relationship in the first place.

  8. Jill February 16, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

    The majority of online sexual “stalking” of teens is done by their peers; other teens, not the predator or child molester.

  9. Nic February 16, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    Having seen it first hand, grooming by sexual predators online does happen, and children are encouraged to give their personal information, images and perform sexual acts. It may not lead to physical abuse,or worse, but it is abuse none the less. If your kids don’t know who they are talking to, they are at risk of grooming.

  10. Catherine Scott February 16, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

    While we watching a promo for some tv program on cyberstalking I asked my teenage daughter what she’d do if that happened.

    She rolled her eyes and said ‘turn off the computer’.

    Kids have way more sense than adults.

  11. Catherine Scott February 16, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

    And as to being courted online, same daughter and her friends were approached by someone on facebook trying to ‘friend’ them who they didn’t know. They got suspicious and gave the individual such an electronic shellacking he she or it is probably still applying ice packs.

    I repeat: kids have got heaps of street smarts – as long as they don’t have parents who have always done the thinking for them.

    And as someone already said, it’s vulnerable kids who hang around suspect chat rooms who get into strife.

  12. Emma February 16, 2014 at 11:07 pm #

    Free range kids has been a wonderful support for my already low key approach to “stranger danger” & cyber stalking. I always knew the chances were low, and this site has backed me up with stats. One side effect of this though, has been my increased awareness about the likelihood of non-stranger danger. I find myself looking at family & friends every now & then, and wondering if they’re capable of harming my kids… while obviously I don’t think any of my friends or family would do such a thing, presumably most people think the same about their family & friends, yet the stats show that it does happen (albeit rarely, but way more commonly than stranger danger). Has anyone else experienced this?
    It previously was just in the back of my mind in a “I probably should worry more about the people my kids know rather than the stranger at the park” kind of way, until recently when my good friend & usual babysitter wasn’t feeling the best & sent her hubby over to watch the kids instead. Now I totally know it’s worst-first thinking, and probably completely sexist too, but I couldn’t help but at least think of the possibility, even though I’ve known this guy for nearly 5 years & hang out with his wife & kids (and often him too) at least a couple of times a week. Triggered by a comment from my daughter that her bottom hurt, which I’m pretty sure is just because she didn’t wipe properly, but nevertheless, the thought did cross my mind…

  13. Warren February 16, 2014 at 11:09 pm #

    As with anything else in life, the same ideals apply. You give them the proper tools, and trust them to make the right calls.

    If you have raised them right, you can trust them.

    The reason parents are so scared is that they did not grow up with this technology.
    No different than my grandparents just freaked to know I lived less than a mile from a nuclear generating station. A technology they had thrust upon them, as where I grew up with it.

  14. Donna February 17, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    If teens are out trolling the internet for adults to have sex or sexual-oriented chats, they will find willing participants.

    If teens are posting sexually enticing photos and comments online, they will get sexual attention.

    If teens are emotionally needy, there is a possibility that they will find someone who will take advantage of that, largely in chat rooms or gaming sites.

    Everybody else is really safe online. The internet is teaming with millions of teens and yours just ain’t all that. The odds that some sexual predator will seek out an unwilling teen online, put a lot of effort into finding him/her and travel there to rape him/her are exceedingly small. Especially when there are many very willing teens out there in cyber world. Especially since teens are pretty common worldwide and it is much easier to just rape the one who lives down the road.

  15. Warren February 17, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    Spoke to my daughter 14yrs old, this morning about this article.

    And she nailed it on the head. Parents will trust their kids in the real world, but the moment they get online parents treat them like morons that cannot take care of themselves. Online is no different than on the street, except that the younger generations can pick up on online creeps a lot better than we can. The online world is their turf, they know it, they know how to handle it. It is the parents that do not know it or how to handle it.

  16. E. Simms February 17, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    @Emma “Now I totally know it’s worst-first thinking, and probably completely sexist too, but I couldn’t help but at least think of the possibility, even though I’ve known this guy for nearly 5 years & hang out with his wife & kids (and often him too) at least a couple of times a week.”

    What’s important is whether or not you acted on that thought, and it appears you didn’t. All kinds of things trigger negative thoughts for me, such as lip and eyebrow piercings and those icky bottom lip mustaches. But I don’t act on those thoughts because I know they are unreasonable. I’ve even hired a guy with an icky bottom lip mustache.

    I think that there is way too much sharing today. There is a lot to be said for keeping your thoughts to yourself when you are interacting with people in person.

  17. CrazyCatLady February 17, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    My kids do pretty well with not giving out information, or clicking on sidebar or strange stuff (especially after several viruses that shut down the computer.)

    I have about 30 friends on FaceBook. I know them all. I have a LOT more who have asked to friend me, some I know, some that I have no clue. But, the ones I know I don’t know that well, and the ones I don’t know…can’t see a good reason why they would want to friend me. Maybe I am interesting, but nah, I will keep things small. My kids are not old enough or have not shown interest in FB but when they do I will suggest that they keep the friends limited to people they actually are friends with and know well. People who won’t turn them in to the police if they write something really stupid like “I am so angry I feel like I could blow up the school,” stupid.

  18. Puzzled February 17, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog…

    This fear is so big because (big surprise) there’s a sensationalist tv show about it. A fake documentary movie didn’t help much either.

    If you do a survey of parents’ biggest fears, I guarantee it will align very well with what things tv shows have featured.

  19. SOA February 17, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    Donna: Aren’t most teens (especially girls) emotionally needy though? I know I sure was when I was a teenager and I was not the only one I knew like that.

    I can only imagine the trouble I could have got myself into if I had internet back in those days. I was craving approval and attention since I was not popular in school and I don’t think it would have turned out well for me.

    I am not worried about the whole stalking someone and finding them to rape them. I am more worried about stuff like sending naked pictures that gets you arrested for child porn next thing you know. Because you can be arrested for child porn even if the picture is of yourself if you are a minor.

    All you can do is teach your kids and hope they have enough sense to not be stupid about it and check up on them now and again. It worries me though.

  20. Donna February 17, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    SOA – No. I wasn’t emotionally needy. None of my friends were emotionally needy. Most of the kids that I knew growing up were pretty well adjusted, normal teenagers. Most the teenagers that I know now who aren’t my clients are not emotionally needy.

    Of course, EVERYONE needs an emotional connection, but most teens get that connection from the real world – parents, relatives, friends, boyfriends – and are not seeking it from strangers on the internet. The ones who are susceptible to men in chat rooms – the ones who are even spending lots of time in chat rooms talking to strangers instead of being out in the real world with real people – are those who are not getting that needed emotional connection at home. Kids from dysfunctional families, are bullied, or are isolated for some reason. Those are also the kids most likely to fall victim to predators (and I use that term loosely) in real life as well.

  21. anonymous this time February 17, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    Every time we talk about this, I have to bring up my friend’s hysteria over men and women on dating websites posting photos of themselves with their kids.

    From my perspective, on the best side of it, it’s supporting honesty and expression, as in, “This is my life. I’m a parent first, so you can see what it is that’s important to me, even though I’m seeking a relationship.”

    On the worst side, it seemed to be marketing, as in, “Look at me, I’m a man who is kind toward kids, trust me, I’m a good guy.” In some cases, the children in the photos were nieces or nephews, or friends’ kids. Any kid would do, just to show off how much a guy likes kids (which, I must admit, is smart marketing, especially on websites where you’re seeking a woman over 30… chances are she’s a mom!).

    But my friend was outraged. She felt that these adults were needlessly endangering these kids. Even though there were no names or addresses accompanying these photos. We went all the way through her convoluted labyrinth of logic to get from “photos of children with their adult on a dating website” to “child gets sexually exploited” and believe me, it was so outrageous, I don’t think it’s even happened except in her imagination.

    In the end, she just said she thought it was “embarrassing” for the kids (who were all fully clothed) and “inappropriate.” I never included my kids in my dating profile photos, because I think the marketing part of that works against women, and my gut told me to save that part for later. But I never, ever thought less of a guy who had kids in his photos. I thought they were cute. And I certainly didn’t think he was “endangering” them!

  22. wombat94 February 17, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    The most relevant part of Peter Gray’s review to me is the following from his summary:

    “Aside from the very serious problems of poverty and inequality, our nation’s biggest offense against teenagers, and against younger children. too, is lack of trust. Every time we snoop on them, every time we ban another activity “for their own good,” every time we pass another law limiting their access to public places, we send the message, “we don’t trust you.” ”

    This, to me, is what free range parenting is all about… trying to give our kids the skills to navigate the world (both in person and online) in a safe, sane and trustworthy manner. The more we as individuals and as a society try to restrict the chances of “harm” coming to kids, the more we do them a disservice.

    Thanks for the heads up on the review, Lenore. I was vaguely aware of the Danah Boyd’s book coming out, but didn’t know it had been released. I am reading it now. With my oldest just turning 12, it is starting to be the time to consider walking the walk that I’ve been talking about for years, and it is great to have what appears to be such a well researched, well written book to use as another reinforcement for my beliefs.

  23. Andy February 17, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    @CrazyCatLady Antivirus might be a good idea. The most common vector for infections are ads on legitimate pages. (So ad blocker may a good idea for that very reason.) You do not have to do anything especially dangerous or fishy to get a virus.

    Plus, most viruses do not shutdown computer, you have no idea they are there while they silently collect data or use your computer to hack other targets.

  24. Andy February 17, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    I would not fret too much about kids and facebook. According to the research that hit tech pages last months, kids do not use facebook – that is where their parents and grand parents are.

    Kids use Snapchat and Whatsapp mostly.

  25. Papilio February 17, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

    Well, there are kids stupid enough to undress for the webcam or give too personal information to strangers. Maybe something for schools to (briefly) include in one course or another.

    @Anonymous this time: Not to scare anyone (and not saying this happens all the time), but the danger I can think of is that of those guys who seek out their girlfriend because she has a cute daughter of the right age :-/

  26. wombat94 February 17, 2014 at 2:54 pm #


    Your comment “the danger I can think of is that of those guys who seek out their girlfriend because he has a cute daughter of the right age” is exactly the kind of worst-first, male demonizing that this blog tries so hard to combat.

    Does it happen? It probably has, but not often enough to deserve that kind of caution.

    As for me, I wouldn’t post pictures of my kids in an online dating profile because from the time they were aware of what online posting of photos was, my kids have had the right of refusal of any images of them… where and how they get posted online.

  27. SOA February 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    Donna: Good for you and your friends then. You must have been the kids with the perfect home life and lots of friends and popularity. The kids with less than perfect home lives and not lots of friends or no boyfriends/girlfriends or kids who are bullied or ugly or awkward will be emotionally needy. You are sticking your head in the ground if you don’t think the above exists. Actually I would say that is more the norm than the exception. I was a middle class above average student who you would assume had a nice life and it was no where close to being true. Same with a lot of other kids I knew.

  28. John February 17, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    Nic…..I don’t believe this article is implying that the sexual grooming of children online does not happen but that it is extremely rare and we’re getting extremely paranoid worrying about it as if it happens every time a child goes on the Internet.

  29. anonymous mom February 17, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    Realistically, it’s your older teen and young adult sons who are most at risk. They are the ones who are going to get charged if, at 20, they send their 16 year old girlfriend a naked picture or receive one from her. They are the ones who will get arrested in a sting operation if, at 19, they respond positively to the advances of an undercover officer pretending to be a sexually-experienced 15yo seeking out a hook-up in an adult sex chat room. They are the ones who are at risk if some needy teen girl keeps sending them pictures or texts.

    We need to be clear when we talk about this. If we are worried about stupid young adult men making bad choices about interactions with desperate, needy teen girls, then we may be on to something. But it’s wrong to label those young men “predators” when it’s generally these young women who are going into adult sites and initiating things, and wrong to call them “pedophiles” when these are post-pubescent, often very sexually-experienced teen girls. Yes, if you have a daughter who is insecure, desperate for validation, and prone to seek out male attention to try to meet her needs, she can find lots of trouble on the internet. But, she’d find lots of trouble off of it, too. I grew up before the internet, and I had friends who, at 14 and 15, were trying desperately to get the attention of and date older, sometimes much older, guys. Not many friends like that, but a few. If a teen girl is out looking for trouble, she is going to find an endless supply of men happy to oblige, either online or off. And it’s a problem that needs to be addressed within the girl.

    If we’re talking about child predators actively using the internet to seek out unsuspecting victims–men prowling the Nickolodean site hoping to find a 7-year-old to groom, or going onto One Direction fan boards pretending to be a teen girl so that he can trick and then seduce 13yo virgins–it’s just not happening. There is no evidence it’s happening.

    The “children” who are being propositioned sexually online are generally post-pubescent teens either explicitly lying about their age–teen girls creating online profiles where they claim they are 18–or who are in adult-oriented parts of the web where people are expecting to talk about sex and not expecting to encounter teens. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but it’s a fundamentally different issue that predatory pedophiles using the internet to groom children.

  30. Papilio February 17, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    @Wombat94: Hence my two disclaimers.

  31. Donna February 17, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

    Actually, Dolly, I was poor, had divorced parents with an absentee alcoholic father, present alcoholic/drug addict stepfather, a completely narcissistic mother and a redneck step mother that I hated. And let’s not forget an outsider since I was a recently arrived Yankee from New Jersey living in small town rural Georgia where everyone else had known each other since before the Civil War. I had a few good friends and got along with just about everybody else, but was certainly not Miss Popularity. I was definitely not particularly attractive.

    I think you are projecting your feelings onto others. Emotionally needy, friendless bullies exist, but absolutely are not the norm in high school. The vast majority of students are neither super popular nor bullied. They are average Joes and Janes, just like in life outside high school. Most are still not spending their Friday and Saturday nights home alone and hanging out in chat rooms online.

  32. Andy February 17, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    @Donna “Most are still not spending their Friday and Saturday nights home alone and hanging out in chat rooms online.”

    Just out of curiosity, what do you think most kids do most Friday nights and when do you think they come home? Most teenagers/kids I knew used to come home in the evening and then be home.

    Used to mean watching tv/reading and would certainly mean being online hanging v these days.

    Even those who used to go dance or at a party did it only once in a while and not on most Fridays/Saturdays.

  33. anonymous mom February 17, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    I don’t think it matters whether teens are spending their evenings online; it matters that most who are, are not seeking out or responding positively to the advances of older guys.

    I got AOL when I was 17. I can remember being surprised, at first, at how immediately, if I answered the a/s/l question, I’d have random people make the most lewd and disgusting comments. But, I wasn’t a helpless victim of them, any more than, as a very mature-looking teenager, I was a helpless victim of older guys who would hit on me. If an older guy hit on me at my job as a waitress, I’d rebuff his advances. No problem. Same if a guy my own age was hitting on me and I wasn’t interested. These weren’t men seeking to force their will on me, but just checking to see if I was interested. I would make it clear I wasn’t, and they’d move on. No harm done.

    Online, it was even easier. Not only could I rebuff an advance, but I could block a person from being able to contact me entirely. Make a comment about your penis the minute you hear I’m a female? Blocked. Done. And I knew there were certain rooms to not even venture into, because all it would be was gross sex talk.

    Why do we think teens, especially teen girls, are unable to say no? If anything, the internet is a very safe place, because they can block and report a user who harasses them on most sites. Unless they are actively seeking out trouble–in which case I think it’s very hard to paint the men as predators or pedophiles or monsters–they can avoid it very easily.

    We need to expect more from teens. They are capable of making responsible choices, and for most of human history, that’s just what they did. It’s only when we decided they were just larger children and expecting them to make a string of terrible choices all through the socially-constructed period of adolescence that they started living down to our expectations. If we stopped treating teens like stupid children who can’t make good choices about sex (including being capable of turning down sexual advances), maybe fewer would act as if that’s what they are.

  34. Donna February 17, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    Andy – Most teenagers I knew hung out with friends on Friday and Saturday nights. Movies, hanging out at each other’s houses, hanging out downtown, riding around, even clubbing once we moved to the city were all pretty common weekend activities. Based on either seeing people when I was out and about or hearing stories on Monday morning, my lack of staying home and watching TV all night was not uncommon.

    I never had a curfew, but the curfew for others was generally midnight, however, sleepovers were also extremely common even through high school and my lack of curfew was frequently exploited by my friends. Maybe that is more of a girl-thing than a guy-thing though. Not to mention the fact that we often called each other as soon as we got home and talked for hours more.

  35. Donna February 17, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    Andy, also online need not mean talking to strangers. The internet and chat rooms existed in my late high school and college years and none of the people that I knew were spending large amounts of time in them chatting up strangers.

    I do imagine that kids spent a lot of their free time online now, but in my experience the vast majority is spent watching Youtube videos and other media and interacting with their friends, not communicating with strangers.

  36. ifsogirl February 17, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    As an emotionally needy teenager, that had a circle of close friends, I would have been one of those kids you hear about on the news. I grew up middle class, and yes I had life events that made me more vulnerable to sexual predators than your average kid, but I think the biggest reason I would have gotten into trouble would have been my parents lack of trust in me.

    Instead I was one of those adults that was taken advantage of. I didn’t get hurt, or stalked, or anything really terrible, but I lost a lot of self respect. It is a moment in my life that I am ashamed of. I tell myself I shouldn’t be so hard, it was a very hard time in my life, but it doesn’t really help.

    In a way they were free range parents, I took the bus with friends into the city regularly once I was 12, was expected to help with chores, walk to friends houses. But as an adult I’ve come to realise, they only trusted me when I was with someone else, I rarely did anything alone.

  37. Donna February 17, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    anonymous this time – Exactly. I didn’t mean to sound like I think that teens are not spending inordinate amounts of time online. Of course they are. But the number of teens who are seeking the affection of strangers – any strangers, but particularly older strangers – is quite small.

  38. SOA February 17, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    Donna: You still were more popular than me. I spent pretty much every weekend in middle school at home alone because I had zero friends and no one invited me anywhere. So back then I just watched tv or read or laid around feeling sorry for myself. Now I would probably go online to find friends and yes, it could not turn out so well if I was naive or made bad choices.

    So the internet is not to blame, but we definitely need to make sure kids are aware of what can or could happen and how to use it responsibly and safely

  39. Andy February 17, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    @Donna Parent were more likely to allow boys to be out long then girls. The risk for boy was considered lower. No one did sleepovers, that would be very unusual. The only exception was when girls went out to dance and one of them lived closer to the club (so they do have to go home alone in the night).

    Teenagers went to see movies of course or to drink, but they definitely did not hang together whole night. That was something done once in few months. If we went out, we just got back drunk before eleven or midnight.

    Honestly, if I would be out whole night Friday and Saturday most weekends, my high school results would suffer a lot. I do not think I would be able to prepare for exams or do them after such weekends. Especially when it comes to last year of high school when it matters, every weekend partying is simply too often.

  40. Andy February 17, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    @Donna I started by communicating with strangers on the internet and would probably do it again. First of all, if I wanted to discuss programming (or any other non mainstream hobby), I would not have much choice. It is not like all my classmates were interested in that.

    Second, it is sort of natural thing to do once you open IRC, other mass chat or simply join discussion like this one. Only social network tend to close/limit you to set of contacts. Other chats are topic based.

    People on the internet form communities based on interests and I doubt teenagers are that much different.

    That was and is one great thing about internet. You can be 16, join serious discussion and be treated seriously from the get go. It would never happen in real life, but it requires communication with strangers.

  41. Donna February 17, 2014 at 6:12 pm #

    Andy, I don’t doubt that teenagers are members of groups like this which involves interacting with strangers. I had friends that I made online in college through interest groups. Even met some of them in real life. I still count a few of them as friends. Heck, there are some people here who I would like to meet in real life.

    But going online to discuss issues that interest you is vastly different than chatting up strangers in random chat rooms where there is no point to the conversation other than killing time. I don’t hear of people doing that much anymore.

  42. Joy February 17, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

    I think a website like yours that is dedicated to the truth behind media hype could have done better than single out priests over other religious — Priest sexual predators are in line with the rest of the population 1 to 2 percent. Your point is valid but your vocabulary furthers a media-hyped stereo type. The only category out of line with the general population is public school teachers — 4 percent.

  43. Donna February 17, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

    Andy –

    I didn’t mean to imply that I stayed out all night on a regular basis or that I think teens today do that. Other than the fact that we frequently spent the night at each other’s houses, my social life sounded about like yours. We were usually at someone’s home by midnight (rarely drunk since American parents get more up in arms about that kinda stuff so drinking was only for when a parent-free house could be found to sleep in). But few of the people that I knew then stayed up all night watching TV, reading or surfing the internet when they got home.

    What I meant by saying that teens aren’t home all night surfing the internet is that most teens are out with friends until 11 or 12 and then come home and go to bed, as opposed to coming home from school and never leaving.

  44. Tsu Dho Nimh February 17, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    It was a standing joke way back when AOL was still an on-line service that half the teens on line were balding cops trying to catch the other half, who were pedophiles.

  45. Tsu Dho Nimh February 17, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

    @Andy “That was and is one great thing about internet. You can be 16, join serious discussion and be treated seriously from the get go. “

    Exactly … the person who wants to discuss computers or growing radishes can find a group where they only thing that matters is the topic.

    One open source project asked a well-known, well-respected code contributor to attend a conference as a guest speaker and only then found out he wasn’t old enough to get a passport without both parents signing for it. He’d been active in the project for several years already. They bought his mum a ticket to the conference too, tyo make sure he could come.

  46. Warren February 17, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

    Emotionally needy? If one’s child is that emotionally needy that they are victims in waiting, then chatrooms are the least of the worry. The biggest worry is where did their parents fail them, in the first place.

    You are going on about a very small portion of the demographic.

    From your comments about strangers at the door, to this now, you seem to have unresolved issues causing you to live a fearful existance.

    Raised two girls thru the online generation, and they know more about how to protect themselves and how to spot creepy, than any adult out there.

    Raise em right, and then trust em. That simple.

  47. SOA February 17, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

    Warren: “raise them right and then trust them”? Isn’t that EXACTLY what I said? OH yeah, it was. I said all you can do is teach them how to be safe and responsible on the internet and hope for the best. So thanks for agreeing with me.

    Sorry but I think you guys are giving teenagers more credit than they deserve. Teens in general are probably the most neediest of any age of people. They are unsure about their bodies, trying to find their place in the world, dealing with sexual urges, Dealing with peer pressure. Being a teenager is hard.

  48. Warren February 17, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

    Being a teenager is hard?

    Since when. My teens were fine, never had problems worth anything. I worked, did well in school, had friends, played sports. My kids never had any problems being a teenager, that were not everyday life isn’t fair type.

    Personally I think you are taking your personal shortcomings and fears and projecting them onto today’s teens. Maybe you aren’t giving them enough credit.

  49. SOA February 17, 2014 at 11:56 pm #

    I will concede that my experiences may be not the norm. I had a couple friends and they had issues too. I do seem to hear all the bad stories about teenagers depicted in movies and on the news but that might just be sensationalism.

    So maybe something worth thinking about- how come we see all this stuff about teens cyber bullying and committing suicide and doing dangerous binge drinking and drugs and having sex pacts and what not if that is not actually happening?

  50. J.T. Wenting February 18, 2014 at 12:51 am #

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the vast majority of “sexual predators online” are police and “vigilante groups” hunting for “online sexual predators” and finding each other.
    The rest are small fry who get big press, and then thousands of people come forward with stories about how they suddenly remember they too were abused in the way the arrested man (always) worked, and are thus counted as his victims despite there being zero evidence to it.

    There’s no other way to explain the near weekly reports here of “man arrested for molesting children online, 2500 victims identified”.

  51. Andy February 18, 2014 at 3:47 am #

    @Donna We got drunk in bars and pubs, not in the presence of parents. They might be more relaxed about it, but not that much relaxed. Anyway, most of people I know spend most evenings at home and all of them spend at least three weeks per week at home. That is plenty of time for online activity.

    I suspect that American high schools finish later in afternoon while we had whole afternoon for our self. You do not need to spend evening together when you spend half a day together.

  52. Andy February 18, 2014 at 3:48 am #

    @Donna In my experience, one leads to another. Once you on that #my-interest IRC channel, all the other including #talking-about-girls are click away. And even if you came for #intellectual-discussion, it will get either boring or silent or you get tired from it and random channels browsing follows.

    There are always #games and #music or anything else generic enough. Those are still used and have their share of trolls. My observation is that those are used solely as killing time devices.

    I do not think it is exceptional, cause I see bored people (do not know age) coming in and out and telling nonsensical things on channels and discussion forums.

  53. Donna February 18, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    Andy – I never said that teens don’t go into chat rooms. In fact, my first post said “If teens are emotionally needy, there is a possibility that they will find someone who will take advantage of that, largely in chat rooms or gaming sites.” Gaming sites due to the chatting that goes on during play.

    I simply don’t know many teens who are spending copious amounts of time doing these things. The ones who are generally have issues socially. Even during the heyday of AOL chat rooms, it was something we did every once in awhile for kicks and giggles, not something we spent hours every day doing. With social media/texting being what it is, kids never have to stop talking to each other (unlike when I was a kid and parents generally put time limits on phone chatter). What they can possibly say to one another after spending all day and night together boggles the mind, but teens seem to manage to find something. Maybe it is just a girl-thing.

  54. Donna February 18, 2014 at 8:22 am #

    And even if average teens are spending far more time chatting up random strangers on the internet than the teens that I know lead me to believe, so? There is nothing wrong with chatting on the internet and doing so doesn’t lead to sexual attention unless the teens are interested in sexual attention. Unlike the real world where a bigger, stronger adult can compel a child to do something, nobody can force you to stay in an online conversation that you don’t want to be a part of. The vast majority of kids who get sucked into dangerous situations online are those who are looking to fill an emotional void, not those who are simply looking for a time killer.

  55. anonymous mom February 18, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    I just really wish we could use “predator” correctly.

    Let’s imagine two scenarios involving drug dealers:

    Dealer A hangs out around the fence of the local middle school. As kids get let of out school, he approaches them. He starts a friendly conversation. And then he starts offering them drugs, telling them how great it will be if they try them, and pressuring them into taking them. These middle school students were not out seeking drugs, and this dealer knows this. He was specifically targeting these students in order to find innocent victims and make new addicts.

    Dealer B is on a street corner where you only go if you want to buy drugs. Everybody knows that if you go there, it’s for drugs. He has a stream of adult customers. One night, he’s approached by a potential customer. After talking for a few minutes, this customer reveals she is 15 or 16. The dealer says, “I don’t know, man. That’s kind of young, isn’t it?” The teen insists that she is very mature, has bought drugs many times before, and that she will pay him enough to make it worth his while to sell to her. Come on, she says, man up and sell me the drugs. So, he does.

    Are both predatory drug dealers? I don’t think so. Dealer A is clearly engaged in predatory behavior. Dealer B is not. He is in the wrong, for dealing drugs and for selling to a minor, but he wasn’t seeking out minors and wasn’t trying to talk unwilling minors into buying drugs they didn’t want. Dealer B is not a predator. Dealer A poses a threat to the children in the community, because he is actively seeking them out. Dealer B only poses a threat to teens who are actively, eagerly seeking to buy drugs, and realistically those teens are going to find trouble no matter what.

    The vast majority of cases of “internet predators” look FAR MORE like Scenario B than Scenario A. These men, who are generally young men (18-25 or so) themselves, are not seeking out teens. They are not hanging out in places where they expect children or teens to go. They are not trying to corrupt innocent children. Instead, they are going to sleazy, seedy corners of the web where adults go to talk about sex or plan to meet up for sex, and then when they are approached by a willing, eager post-pubescent teen, they do not have the restraint or good sense to say no.

    But they are not predators. Can we please stop using “predator” to refer to young adult men who make the mistake of engaging in sexual conversations or image exchanges with post-pubescent teens who willingly, knowingly, and eagerly enter adult sex sites (or undercover officers, often decades older than the young men, who pretend to be those teens)? They are not predators. I am not saying they are doing good, moral things; they aren’t. I’m not even saying their actions shouldn’t be illegal. But they are not preying on children or seeking out children, and they are not exploiting and corrupting innocents. They will not pose a danger to your child unless your child is a teen who goes into adult sex sites seeking out conversations, pictures, or encounters with older guys. And if your teen is going to do that, you have a LOT more to worry about than the online conversations she might have.

  56. anonymous mom February 18, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    @JT Wenting: “I’ve come to the conclusion that the vast majority of “sexual predators online” are police and “vigilante groups” hunting for “online sexual predators” and finding each other.
    The rest are small fry who get big press, and then thousands of people come forward with stories about how they suddenly remember they too were abused in the way the arrested man (always) worked, and are thus counted as his victims despite there being zero evidence to it.”

    I’m not sure it’s that simple. Truth is, most of the men arrested as “internet predators” were arrested as part of stings, NOT for actually interacting with teens or children. And, these stings ALWAYS take place either in adult sex chat rooms, adult sex sites, or Craigslist personal ads for adults. I have NEVER heard of one of these stings occurring anywhere on the web where you would reasonably expect a person who was preying on children to go. I don’t know about you, but if I wanted to find an innocent helpless child to groom, I wouldn’t seek them out on a Craigslist “casual encounters” board or in an adult sex chat room.

    So the police go to these places where adults go to find other adults to either talk about sex with or exchange sexual pictures with or plan to meet up for sex with, and they pretend to be a sexually-experienced, willing, eager post-pubescent teen. When the man, who may only be 5 or 6 years older than the “teen” (and is often decades younger than the officer pretending to be the teen), takes the teen at her word that she really does want to have sex, she has done it before with older guys and it’s great, he should be a man and agree to meet with her, he’s deemed a predator, tracked down, and arrested.

    Thousands of men–maybe tens of thousands, at this point–around the country have been arrested in these kind of stings in the last decade. In nearly every case, no child porn is found on his computer. No exchanges with actual minors are found on any of his internet accounts. A search of his computer finds no visits to websites where you’d expect teens or children to go. He has no sex crimes in his history, and nobody comes forward to claim they had an actual real-life encounter with him. And yet, he is charged with an extremely serious felony–often more serious than if he’d actually had sexual contact with an actual minor–and put on the sex offender registry for decades or life. And, the police get federal funds, which they are supposed to use to combat “cyber crime,” to run these stings, even though all they are really doing is creating criminals where there were none.

    But I’m not aware of a single case where a man arrested in one of these stings was found to have ever actually met up with a teen in real life. There may be one or two out there, but in nearly all cases, there is no evidence the man ever had contact with or attempted to have contact with an actual minor, or had any interest in doing so. It’s not uncommon to find that these men have extensive collections of adult pornography and extensive histories in adult sex sites, but no interest in minors up until they encountered an undercover officer pretending to be one in one of those adult sites.

  57. anonymous mom February 18, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    Oh, and just one more thing. The new way these stings tend to take place is not in chat rooms, which nobody uses anymore, but on Craigslist. Because you can’t post an ad for sex as a minor on Craiglist, they post an ad saying they are 18-20. Then, when the man responds, the officer e-mails back saying either that “she” is really 15/16 and lied about her age but don’t worry is really mature and still wants to have sex OR that she is indeed 18/19/20 but has this sister who is 14/15 who wants to join in the fun and would he be okay with the sister please coming along?

    If the guy give any hint of considering the offer, he is tracked down and arrested.

    Florida routinely runs stings using this M.O. Hundreds and hundreds of men have been arrested using this tactic. One county can easily arrest 70 or 80 men in a matter of days doing this. Is that because Florida is teeming with predators? I suppose that’s possible, but I tend to think it’s because they are entrapping men who would never have sought out an encounter with a minor, even if they are willing to go along with it if it’s offered to them.

  58. Warren February 18, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    You get your information for decision making from stories depicted in movies? From fear mongering new agencies?

    Dolly, that says it all.

  59. anonymous mom February 18, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    @SOA: “So maybe something worth thinking about- how come we see all this stuff about teens cyber bullying and committing suicide and doing dangerous binge drinking and drugs and having sex pacts and what not if that is not actually happening?”

    Because, for all of the modern belief that any man over 18, even if he is only 20 or 22, who would dare consider sex with a post-pubescent teen is a monstrous predator, the truth is that stories about teens and sex (or teens and violence, or teens and drinking, or really anything about teens behaving badly) sell. I have no doubt that the reason we’ve seen a rise in “predator panic” in the last few years–which is really fear of teens meeting older guys online–is because any story with the words “teen” and “sex” in the headline is the most tantalizing type of click bait.

    Which is of course the irony of our culture. It is okay for some 50-something clothing exec to use 14 and 15 year old models and hold them up as the epitome of female beauty that all women are supposed to aspire to, but depraved if some 20 year old young man finds a real 15yo he really knows sexually attractive. It is okay to consider a 15 or 16 year old legally an adult if they make the willful decision to engage in serious criminal activity, but no matter how much they initiated any teen under the age of consent is a helpless child when it comes to sex. People will simultaneously argue that 12 year olds are mature enough to access birth control and abortion without needing to consult an adult while believing that a 15 year old completely loses their ability to consent to sex when their partner is over 18. We think that African-American teen boys who commit crimes are monsters and *never* refer to them as “children,” but 16 year old white females who decide to go online and post nude pictures of themselves are innocent little girls.

    We have incredibly inconsistent ideas about teens.

  60. Donna February 18, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    “But I’m not aware of a single case where a man arrested in one of these stings was found to have ever actually met up with a teen in real life.”

    While I essentially agree with you, it isn’t that cut and dry. I represented a couple men caught in these stings with prior convictions for child molestation. We also had one that blew up into rape, aggravated child molestation and child pornography once the police searched his house and computer and found the video of him raping his own daughter.

  61. Donna February 18, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    “how come we see all this stuff about teens cyber bullying and committing suicide and doing dangerous binge drinking and drugs and having sex pacts and what not if that is not actually happening?”

    It all has actually happened. But it is like kidnapping. Everyone is so convinced that it is happening every day on every street corner when really it happens very rarely.

  62. anonymous mom February 18, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    @Donna, like I said, I’m not saying it never happens. I’m just saying it’s rare. Of the thousands of men who have been arrested in these stings, very few have been found to have engaged in any real-life or even other online sex crimes. Most are dumb men, often dumb young men, who just didn’t think that the difference between a 15yo (wildly illegal) and a 17yo (perfectly legal) was that salient.

    I’ve also noticed that the older the “girl,” the more false-positive these stings tend to get. The stings that use a fake 15yo often garner dozens of arrests in a matter of days, often of men who are either relatively young themselves or foreign (from countries/cultures where age of consent laws are different). The stings that use a fake 11 and 12yos are far less common, probably because they tend to generate far fewer arrests, but they also do seem to be the ones that will sometimes catch men who actually have engaged in real-life sex crimes.

    The question is, are they running these stings to catch “predators” or to up their arrest numbers in order to justify the money they are taking in from the federal government to catch “cybercriminals”? If it were to catch predators, it seems like they’d NOT want to go after 19 and 20 year old guys who would consider sleeping with an eager girl a month below the age of consent, but would be running these stings in places and under circumstances where you’d reasonably expect to find a person seeking out teens or children.

    I don’t think actual pedophiles or “internet predators” are hanging out in adult sex chat rooms just hoping that MAYBE a child is going to wander inside. I don’t think they are hanging around sleazy adult personal ad boards and responding to Craiglist ads from people claiming to be 19. Those shouldn’t be the places where these stings get run–if they should get run at all, which is an open question, since we are one of the few countries in the world that does such a thing, and our children are no safer–if the goal is to actually catch men who are actively seeking out teens or children to prey on.

  63. Donna February 18, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

    Anonymous this time – We had 3 out of less than 10 cases. A 4th was involved in stings by different agencies and had numerous child porn images on his computer. While it is not the majority, I wouldn’t call it rare either.

  64. Donna February 18, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

    “often of men who are either relatively young themselves or foreign (from countries/cultures where age of consent laws are different)”

    This is also not true in my experience. We had one college kid, one in his mid 20s and another who looked young but I don’t know how old he was. The vast majority were over 30. Not a single one was foreign.

    I do believe that many of the men would have sex with teens if they could get them in the real world, however, I am totally anti stat rape laws and this is basically the same. These men aren’t predators. The “girls” entered the chat rooms voluntarily, were often the first who brought up sex and were very sexually aggressive. There was absolutely no pursuit by the men at all beyond saying “hi” when “she” entered the chat room.

    Willingness to take what a nubile young thing offers you is very different than taking that which is not offered, and outside of the 3 previously mentioned, none of these men came across to me as rapists who would force a teen to have sex against her will. Readily jump at the chance if a naked teen was offering herself up on a silver platter? Absolutely, but not take what isn’t offered.

    In no other crime do we punish thoughts. The fact that I’d sometimes like to slap my obnoxious clients doesn’t make me guilty of assault. I can even say “sometimes I’d like to slap you” to them and it wouldn’t be a crime.

  65. anonymous mom February 18, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

    That’s interesting. I know that, in the series of stings my husband was arrested in, hundreds of arrests over a number of years didn’t yield a single conviction of a man who was charged with anything other than “use of computer to commit a crime.” They didn’t link a single man to another sex crime, even another online one. But it was a very bad, highly entrapping sting.

  66. anonymous mom February 18, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    @Donna, just wanted to say, again, that’s interesting. My husband was arrested in the sting at 25, and I’d say he was right in the middle of the age range of those arrested. A few were significantly older, but nearly all were under 30, and a good number were younger than my husband. There were several 19 year olds, which just absolutely breaks my heart.

  67. Earth.W February 18, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

    We do not use a nanny filter on our computers. I have seen just how stupid they are on my eldest daughter’s school issues computer where she can’t use it to research for her health classes because essential keywords including ‘breast’ leads to a good blocking. She cannot research for STI’s on the computer for the Nanny Net. It is absurd.

    For computer safety, computer use is not allowed in the bedrooms and we monitor their use. Any forbidden activity leads to the removal of access to the computers with the exemption of school work.

  68. Donna February 18, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

    To correct my previous statement. I was counting the guy who raped his daughter twice. He was also a previously convicted child molester (THIS is a predator). Only one other of the sting arrests had a previous child molestation conviction. So it is even rarer than I was giving it credit for being.

  69. J.T. Wenting February 19, 2014 at 12:55 am #

    “Thousands of men–maybe tens of thousands, at this point–around the country have been arrested in these kind of stings in the last decade. In nearly every case, no child porn is found on his computer. No exchanges with actual minors are found on any of his internet accounts.”

    correct. And they still get blasted in the media for being “internet pedophiles”, with corrections never posted.
    Their lives are destroyed, they have to go into hiding in their communities under false names, often undergoing plastic surgery to change their appearance radically, or they’re constantly harassed and have their property vandalised (if they’re lucky, if not they’re murdered and the murderer praised as a “pedohunter ridding society of another pervert”).

    Many end up convicted because the police and justice are unwilling to admit they were wrong, evidence being planted to justify the arrest and public scandalising of the target.

    “It’s not uncommon to find that these men have extensive collections of adult pornography and extensive histories in adult sex sites, but no interest in minors up until they encountered an undercover officer pretending to be one in one of those adult sites.”

    Or even not pretending to be one…
    Having sexual contact with a minor is illegal even if you didn’t know your partner was a minor.
    So they distribute pictures of naked woman, 17 years old for example, that would not be considered pornographic if not found on a porn site, through a sting site, then arrest the visitors for posession of child pornography.
    Or an officer makes up a persona that’s 14 years old but tells people she’s 18 so she can get into sex chatrooms. Again, people talking to her, believing the persona to be 18, are then arrested for chatting in a sex room with a 14 year old girl who’s actually a 50 year old policeman.

    “One county can easily arrest 70 or 80 men in a matter of days doing this. Is that because Florida is teeming with predators? I suppose that’s possible, but I tend to think it’s because they are entrapping men who would never have sought out an encounter with a minor, even if they are willing to go along with it if it’s offered to them.”

    of even if not. The very act of reacting to the original message is illegal even if you didn’t know the person was a minor…
    And no, it’s not that county. The people are lured to the county from all over the USA (and further afield), then arrested upon arrival.
    Many will at that point themselves still be under the impression they’re there to meet an 18-19 year old young woman, not a 50 year old policeman with a beer belly pretending to be a 14 year old girl pretending to be a 18 year old woman.

    But the legal cases aren’t the worst, most of those are thrown out of court for the ridiculousness of them.
    It’s the fact that the names, photos, and addresses of the targets are spread all over newspapers, televisions, and distributed to vigilante groups that hunt down and “deal with” these “perverts” mercilesly, with no retraction ever being posted after courts declare the arrestee not guilty (that fact never reaching the papers).

  70. anonymous mom February 19, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    @J.T. Wenting: I think these things also go on because of the police tactic–now commonly used for all crimes–of threatening somebody with inflated charges and outrageous sentences if they go to trial but offering a much lighter deal if they take a plea.

    In my husband’s case, he was told that if he went to trial, they’d seek 20 years in prison. 20 years. For, at 25, engaging in explicit chats in an adult sex room with an officer pretending to be a very experienced, mature 15yo (who would egg him on by saying things like “be a man” and “all of the other guys I’ve been with said what they wanted and that was hot” and initiating online chats for months, even after he failed to show up at three meetings the officer had tried to arrange).

    But, the insanity of that aside, they then offered him 2 years probation–no prison time at all–if he pled guilty. Of course he did. He didn’t even consider fighting the charges. Why would take the risk of 20 years in prison if they are guaranteed a way out? What I can’t figure out is, if somebody committed a crime so heinous and dangerous that you think locking them up for two decades is a valid option, why would you even consider letting them off with two years probation? It’s a game prosecutors play, for ALL types of crimes, and it’s completely subverting the entire idea of justice in this country, but that’s another rant…

  71. Gravy February 19, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    Lenore, Are you going to address the little 10 year old girl who was abducted by a stranger and killed in Springfield, MO? She was walking to her friends house. You and your followers claim that the risk of abductions by strangers isn’t high enough to take heed. You slam “helicopter” parents because they see the risk of abduction and murder for their children as too high. You are basically encouraging parents to make their child the one that gets abducted. I hope that we find out that her parents followed your teachings and the media slams you for encouraging parents to be neglectful.

  72. Warren February 19, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    First at least back up your claims with a reference to a news article or something. I will not just take your word this happened. Unless of course you are the one that committed the crime and are trying to confess.

    Secondly, how many children were out and about that day, when was the last time this happened, and so on? It is still a very rare incident. Not one worhty of imprisoning out kids in the name of safety.

  73. anonymous mom February 19, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    @Gravy, reports seem to indicate that she was not abducted by a stranger, but a man who worked in her school.

    Her death is tragic and awful. But, it’s still incredibly, incredibly rare. Do you know how many 10 year olds walked to a friend’s house yesterday and *didn’t* get abducted?

    We cannot live in light of worst-case scenarios. Some kids died in car accidents yesterday, but we’re not all going to stop driving. Some kids choked to death, but we’re not going to all put our kids on liquid diets.

    It is no more neglectful to allow children to play outside unsupervised or to walk to a friend’s house alone today than it was when we were kids, or our parents were kids, or our grandparents were kids. Just because the media reports on EVERY child abduction doesn’t mean that there aren’t other, much greater risks to children that we don’t total alter our lives to avoid.

  74. Donna February 19, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    “It’s a game prosecutors play, for ALL types of crimes, and it’s completely subverting the entire idea of justice in this country”

    Yes, it is. It completely negates the right to a jury trial in many jurisdictions.

  75. Papilio February 19, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

    “dumb young men, who just didn’t think that the difference between a 15yo (wildly illegal) and a 17yo (perfectly legal) was that salient”

    It’s only that salient because dumb adults have decided that it is, without considering anything else.

  76. wendy February 20, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

    This one is hard for me, because I work with high risk youth and I see the kinds of whackos there are out there especially preying on the most vulnerable kids. It’s like there is some kind of magnetic attraction though– these kids are seeking out the danger and trust me they find it. That being said these kids have been far more damaged by their families before they ever become old enough to cruise the net in search of love (cause that is the reason there are on the web looking for it– it is not at home).

  77. Helynna Brooke February 22, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

    I have a friend who is a police officer so he is more worried about worst case scenarios. Instead of forbidding his teen daughter from Instant Messaging online when that was popular several years ago, together they viewed the messages coming in for a session and found a few that could have been from adults instead of other youth. His daughter then taught all her friends about which ones sounded like adults. So much more empowering to learn how to protect herself and share that information.

  78. Warren February 24, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    Would it be safe to say that these youths at risk will find trouble anywhere, that the net is only one way. That if the net was not available, they would find it elsewhere.