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Beware! Child Predators Are Targeting Moms

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Before the Internet, child predators had to "groom" their victims in person -- often taking weeks or months to gain the trust of their prey.

Beware! Child Predators are Targeting Moms

The Internet allowed pedophiles a whole new way to access children -- by pretending to be other kids, they can specifically target children in order to lure them into dangerous situations.

And now, if that wasn't bad enough, child predators have found a new, and more disturbing, way to get close to your children -- through you.

Momlogic contributor and Internet Safety Specialist Lori Getz made us aware of one of the scariest new trends among child predators -- infiltrating parenting websites and befriending parents in order to get to their kids:

Let me give you an example. You are a new parent again, you already have a 4-year-old, and now you have a beautiful new baby who just won't sleep. You don't remember having this same issue with the older one (we all know how amnesia sets in), and you are desperate for sleep. It's 3 AM and you are searching for answers on the Internet.

You come across a parenting networking site where you can ask questions of experts and get advice from other parents dealing with similar issues. A young dad logs in and sees your desperate post about sleep training. He knows the perfect person to help you. He even sends you a message through the system with the sleep trainer's name and phone number and his personal e-mail address in case you need more support. You are grateful for the advice, log off, and wait for morning to call the sleep trainer for help.

To be polite, you send the dad a thank-you note, and after a few e-mail exchanges, you realize you two have a lot in common. Your kids are the same age; you live near one another and even play at the same park. So you set up a playdate. However, when your new friend arrives, he tells you the kids got sick but he wanted to come by and say hello in person. You are excited to introduce your new friend to the other parents at the park and subsequently your children and all of your friends' kids too.

STOP! You may have just let a predator into your life, and because you trust this person, so will your children.

Predators are lurking in parenting networking sites, teachers' forums, and anywhere else they believe they can cultivate relationships with adults that may lead them to children.

When a teacher brings in an expert on volcanoes to demonstrate the power of ammonium dichromate, the students believe this is someone they can trust. "If Mr. Johnson trusts him, I can too." But where did Mr. Johnson meet this expert? Is he really there for the benefit of education, or does he have an ulterior motive?

We, as adults, need to be careful who we let into our lives and the lives of our children. Once a child trusts a predator, it is easy for the predator to manipulate that child. Using the friendship and trust the predator has established with the adult can actually be used against the child. "Your teacher will be impressed if you come with me to finish an extra credit project." Or "Your mommy sent me to pick you up. Remember me? She introduced us at the park."

According to Getz, it is important that we keep this in mind the next time we log onto any site where we can communicate with strangers. Follow these tips to ensure everyone's safety:

1. Create a screen name that does not give away personal information. Your online name should consist of random letters and numbers and not your real name or the names of your kids. Do not give anyone an opportunity to use your personal information in your screen name to strike up a conversation.

2. Use a pseudo-identity. Use a fake name every time you set up an online account for any networking site, forum, blog, or wiki.

3. Never give an online stranger the opportunity to meet you or your children face-to-face. Like I say to the kids, it's better to hurt someone's feelings than put you or your family in harm's way.

4. Report suspicious behavior. Just use common sense here. If you see something on a forum that looks suspicious or makes you uncomfortable, contact the webmaster immediately!

Parenting networks, teacher forums, and help columns are great ways to get information -- just don't use them to make new friends!


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50 comments so far | Post a comment now
mommymichelle6 June 8, 2009, 12:02 PM

Thanks for the thought provoking post. I never considered this particlar angle on the subject.

Spookygirl June 8, 2009, 12:28 PM

Really? This is happening? Do you have any true, first hand accounts of this happening? I for one, am not convinced this is the new thing to panic about, honestly.

Nell June 8, 2009, 12:59 PM

Anything is possible nowadays, so I will make a note of this.

LPT June 8, 2009, 3:19 PM

I’m with Spookygirl on this - sounds like this article is just inciting fear w/o any real life examples to back it up. Sorta like those icky broadcast news teasers … “could your drinking water could turn your children into green mutants? find out more tonight on channel z!”

rugbymom June 8, 2009, 4:26 PM

You lost me at set up a play-date! I talk to Moms an Dads on a couple sites like this one often, but never have I even considered doing something like this. I really believe this is where common sense should apply. Sad you have to tell people not to do this!

beanster5 June 8, 2009, 4:29 PM

I do not think the article was written to incite any irrational panic; simply to let parents know that not only do our children need to be cautious when talking to strangers online, but we parents need to be internet-savvy as well.

JVEM3 June 8, 2009, 5:20 PM

Unfortunately this kind of stuff really is happening. Take a look at what just happened in Oregon this weekend. Link attached

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/07/korena-elaine-roberts-bef_n_212369.html

Spookygirl June 8, 2009, 5:47 PM

JVEM3,

That was through Craigslist, not an parenting message board. That’s a completely different thing altogether.

I just don’t think we need to get all paranoid about things that aren’t truly a threat to our families safety. When we spend so much time afraid of things that aren’t truly a threat, we can lose sight of those things that really are.

momof4 June 8, 2009, 7:14 PM

I think the author’s point is being missed here. She is clearly talking about predators cultivating relationships with adults that may lead them to children. This happens on single parent dating sites, support group sites, self help forums, etc. I think her example was just that, an example of what could happen, not a literal translation of an event. I could totally see falling into something like this. Thinking I am making a new friend online… it’s a good reminder that common sense must always prevail!

Daniella June 8, 2009, 9:49 PM

Something very similar to this just recently happened to one of my neighbors. She met a supposed single father on a parent networking site that focused on colic infants. Somewhere along the line, the woman let a stray piece of info slip to him & it turned out that he lived in the area & was able to figure out where she took her three older children to the playground. The man just showed up there one day & introduced himself, stating that his two daughters were with their mother for the weekend. She said he seemed like a really nice guy, but there was just something that seemed off. So she went home, did some searching, came to the Megan’s Law website & searched all of the registered sex offenders in her area. To her horror, she found a picture of the man on there & the crimes he had committed against young children. She called the cops the very next morning & reported that he was going near the local parks & schools. Although not very common, there are definitely creeps like that guy out there. You don’t have to be paranoid, but a little bit of caution & trusting your natural intuition can go a long way in protecting your children.

Lori Getz June 9, 2009, 1:18 PM

Dear Readers,
I appreciate all of the comments posted. Spookygirl, I wanted to respond to your earlier question of whether or not this is real. Unfortunately it is, as you can see in Daniella’s post. In my years of lecturing with local and federal law enforcement, I have learned the ways of all types of predators, those who lurk on children’s sites and those who use adults as conduits to access children. While I cannot discuss specific cases, I wrote this article to make parents aware of the potential danger and not to insight panic.
I believe we need to be talking about these types of issues before they become epidemics. Usually, by the time the media begins focusing on these issues it is too late and too many children have been victimized.
This week we saw what happened in Portland, OR as two women met on craigslist and became friendly enough they decided to meet and exchange baby clothes. One woman was pregnant and the other pretended to be. Now, the pregnant mother is dead as is her baby, and the other women is being arraigned for her murder.
This is exactly what I am talking about. Whether it is on momlogic, craigslist, or Facebook, the point of the story is making new friends online is NEVER safe.

Marian Merritt June 9, 2009, 4:29 PM

Readers, I have to agree with Lori Getz (the author) that these threats are real, very serious and worthy of at least you becoming aware of them. Awareness that leads to added caution is the goal here.

Marian Merritt,
Symantec/Norton Internet Safety Advocate

iKeepSafe June 9, 2009, 11:14 PM

Thank you so much for this article. I didn’t think it was inciting panic at all. It is absolutely necessary for adults to stay up to date with online safety. It’s great to have reminders of what we can do.

blahblahblah June 17, 2009, 2:45 PM

Single mothers, don’t be fooled. Any man who is interested in you is only after you to get to your kids. No man will ever be interested in a woman with all of that baggage that we call “kids”.

What is this crap? Might as well never hire a babysitter. Babysitters have been known to abuse, neglect and molest children. Also, disown your entire family. Family members have been known to prey on children of their kin. You better stay away from church as well. Priests were in the news not long ago for molesting kids. I’m pretty sure I read about a cop who got busted for kiddie porn, too. Better not trust the boys in blue.

Sincerely,
Fearmonger

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