Children + Chat: A Dangerous Equation

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The sting took place at a suburban grocery store where the sheriff's department decoy was waiting. The 60-year-old male cyber stalker was expecting to meet a 14-year-old boy, but when the suspect approached the decoy he was arrested and booked into the county jail on two counts of attempted forcible sodomy and one count of attempted forcible sexual abuse. It's a chilling scenario that's being re-enacted all over the country, but this particular case was different.

Instead of the usual sting set up by investigators posing in chatrooms as children, this one was set up by a mother posing as her 14-year-old son. Concerned about the time her son was spending online, this first-time inexperienced chat user entered one of her son's favorite chatrooms using his name. Within five minutes she had been propositioned, and when her "new friend" became more and more sexually explicit, she got on the phone to the sheriff's office. As per the sheriff's instructions, she set up a meeting with the would-be pedophile, then, shaken and disturbed, left it in the hands of the authorities.

It is safe to say that most parents don't have a clue about what their children are up to online. Parents who wouldn't dream of letting their kids go without seatbelts, bike helmets, or sunscreen, are letting them go unbridled into cyberspace. This mother's experience should be a wake-up call to the parents who throw up their hands and plead ignorance when it comes to Internet issues. With all of the resources available both online and off through schools, PTAs, government agencies, and private sponsors, there is no longer any excuse to remain uninformed.