I have decided that MySpace.com must be the most dangerous place in the world.
Yesterday, in just one day of news, we had four stories about predators and drug dealers meeting their victims through the internet "social" site. In one case, a forty-plus year old man met a teenage girl on the site--claimed to fall in love with her--and convinced her to come to Wisconsin to have sex with him. In another case, a man traveled from Wisconsin Dells to this area to have sex with two girls he met on MySpace. In a third case, an accused drug dealer met a teenager from Mayville on MySpace--had discussions about heroin--and met her to sell her some of the drug. Luckily, she survived the subsequent overdose.
The most high profile case involves an Oshkosh woman who met a 13-year old boy on MySpace--fell in love with him--and started a sexual relationship. The boy's parents tried to get a restraining order against her--but the on-line and physical relationship allegedly continued.
Perhaps its time MySpace start blocking access to minors. I know this is almost impossible given the difficulty in verifying age--but its obvious that parents aren't going to take the steps necessary to protect their kids. I can imagine in all four of the cases I mentioned, the kids have internet access in their bedrooms--always logging on with the door closed or locked so mom and dad don't know where they are going. 99-percent of parents wouldn't have the slightest idea on how to check an internet history or search a computer for image files that might contain inappropriate pictures. If we can't ensure safety on the user end--perhaps the folks at MySpace can do something at the source.
Another problem--and in no way am I defending the actions of the adults in any of these cases--but the kids themselves are making themselves easy victims. I do not have a MySpace page. The only time I use it is to see if people mentioned in some of our news items post anything about themselves that are pertinent to the story. The only "social" site I do frequent is a music site that allows people to post "play only" playlists that users can listen to on their computers. The site is very popular with teenagers--who can add a picture that comes up with their playlist. You can not imagine what some of the teenagers post as those pictures. Many feature little in the way of clothing--with some of the poses being very suggestive. Right below those is the users profile listing their age as 14 or 15. Most of the pictures have obviously been taken with a digital camera by the child themselves (you know the arm extending into the corner of the picutre) and I'm guessing that his or her parents have no idea that image is on the internet for all to see.
Back in the "good old days", perverts and child molesters were just a threat to the neighborhood in which they lived--it wasn't like they could call from house to house across the country asking if there were any kids there. But now, the internet opens up a veritable "smorgasboard" for these predators. Obviously, we can't put the genie back in the bottle--but parents should step up and do a better job of protecting their kids.