Granted, while working my "day job," I am continuously shaking my head in confusion and bewilderment at the lack of common sense I see in people. Case in point: A woman called me to report a sixty-year old sexual predator was sending her daughter explicit e-mails. Okay--tell me more. "He lives in Texas and was sending them to her MySpace page." How old is your daughter? "She's ten."
My response: "A ten-year old on MySpace is like throwing meat at a pack of hungry wolves . . . shut her page down!" I failed to add the word "moron" to the former, but admittedly was thinking it. I have a twelve-year old daughter who is absolutely forbidden from the Web site. Period. Unfortunately, having Mom and Dad as police officers, she tends to be a little more "restricted" than most. The word "MySpace" is written on our police reports at least once a week. Fights, stalking, assaults, telephone harassment, and sex crimes have been committed in the space of the cyber-hangout.
It gets worse when parents become involved. I've witnessed parents sending messages to their son's ex-girlfriends, referring to them as whores, sluts, and the like. I've seen them threaten children as young as twelve. Which brings me to the Megan Meier case. She was the thirteen-year old who committed suicide after a six-week MySpace relationship with a guy who was "enamored" of her. Turns out, the boy was the mother of an ex-friend of Megan's who gave her a "Ha! Joke's on you!" message, prior to her suicide. She was never charged with a crime. Megan's mother (pictured right with photos of Megan) gave the following statement regarding her daughter's torment: "When adults are involved and continue to screw with a 13-year- old, with or without mental problems, it is absolutely vile." She certainly had a lot more restraint than I would have. I F
It's not only MySpace anymore. Knock-off social networking sites are producing the same results. The British fave, Bebo, has allowed numerous teenagers to post their own memorials with seventeen of them committing suicide within the past year. Now, the videogame industry is jumping on-board. With interactive games like Halo that make it extremely difficult to track members, sexual predators are all over it. One juvenile who engaged in a sexual relationship with a twenty-seven year old that she had met on the game committed suicide. It's unrealistic to believe that her tragedy will be an isolated incident. . . .
Federal task forces are already enacted for the social-networkers. But, these are the same members of law enforcement who are grappling with identity theft, fraud, etc. They are overwhelmed and can't possibly monitor every social network. Mainly, it's up to parents to watch the computer activity of their children and teenagers. (One of our contributors has been on the front line of keeping MySpace from becoming TheirSpace.) Yes, in your children's eyes you may be the "bad" guy but . . . your vigilance may end up saving their lives.