Have you seen NBC Dateline's To Catch a Predator series? If not then you cannot truly appreciate the dangers that are lurking in the darkness of cyberspace. Dateline has done a series of programs that catch sexual predators in the act of hunting down a young teenage girl with whom they plan to meet in real life. The man believes he is talking online to a 14 years old (but in reality is an adult who is protraying a 14 year old girl online).
However, after the sexual predator is caught in the act of arriving at what the predator believes is the young girl's home he has been chatting with online and he realizes he has been caught; he tries to talk his way out of his dilemma. Once the sexual predator is suddenly confronted by the host of the show and is surrounded by Dateline’s cameras he will deny he knew the girl was 14 years old and deny he was there for sex.
Many of the excuses seem almost believable until Stone Phillips who was the show's original host when it aired in 2006 (Stone Phillips later left NBC in 2007) or Chris Hansen who hosted the series after Stone Phillips pulls out the actual word for word printed transcript of the online conversation. Then it becomes very apparent that the men were aware he was meeting a girl who was only 14 years old.
Many of the men are registered sex offenders, real life sexual predators, some who drive hundreds of miles across country in anticipation of meeting and possibly having sexual relations with a young girl. Age does not seem to be a deterrent for the sexual predators from bringing up sexually explicit topics to discuss, to asking for cyber sex and even having the girl call him on his cell or home phone to hear her voice.
Then the men make the arrangement to meet in real life. Often promising to bring personal items like condoms, alcohol, stuffed animals, candy, and even presents with them. Some of the sexual predators bring rope, handcuffs, duct tape, or even knifes or guns and the viewer is left to wonder what the tragic outcome might have been if this was not the reality television show To Catch a Predator.
Beginning with the third episode of NBC's Dateline To Catch a Predator the show began involving local and state law enforcement during the taping of these programs, resulting in numerous arrests, and eventual convictions of various sexual predators.
To Catch a Predator emphasizes the need for parents to be ever vigilant in talking with and educating children about the dangers that always lurk in cyberspace. Children must learn how imperative it is that they never give out personal information regarding home, school, church or work online or to total strangers. Parents must establish guidelines for each child who uses the internet. Show your children how revealing even a small amount of personal information can lead to a stranger right to your child’s home or school.
It is not enough to tell a child what NOT to do online, but parents must also teach children what to do if they are solicited in a sexual manner on line. First log off and tell an adult. If possible keep a copy of the IM or email sent to your child to give to police. Listen to what your child is telling you.
Keep the family computer in the kitchen or living room, so your child feels comfortable sharing with you what is going on in cyberspace. Use a password on the computer, so children cannot use the computer unless an adult is home. Do not let the false sense of anonymity lull you or your children into inviting sexual predators into your home through the internet, and always remember there is a dark side to the World Wide Web.