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Carli's Story: Keeping Teenagers Safe Online

posted on May 14, 2007 at 3:26 PM

Child predators have probably been around since the beginning of time, but during the past decade, they've evolved new ways to bait and catch their prey. Tonight we're going to examine the darker side of the seemingly innocent extracurricular activities, social interactions that many of our young people are participating in. They're gathering online at spots like MySpace and Facebook just to meet people and have fun. Now, as adults, we know we should safeguard our identities online, but our children are also at risk, not just for identity theft but also as prizes for child predators. The national center for missing and exploited children reports that one in seven youths on the Internet has received a sexual solicitation or approach. Seventy percent of those children were girls. Ninety-seven percent of offenders met their young victims online.

First, we're going to listen to Carli's story. Starting at age 12, this young woman was victimized by a predator who befriended her online.

Carli: It was a website that you could go to, and you could click a button and can see if they're online. If they're not online, I usually didn't talk to them. But he was online so I started talking to him, and we just went from there, I guess. And it is easier for me talk to people on the computer, because then I can't get very emotional. If you're crying and you're talking to them online, they can't hear you.

Terri: One day I was on the computer messing around, and I just saw an icon that I wasn't familiar with and clicked on it. It opened up a bunch of screen names.

Carli: It's like your own little window and it's just you two talking. So you can ask anything.

Terri: So I just was clicking on them and found one that didn't really like.

Carli: They'll ask how are you doing, what did you do today. And then some of them were, like, "What are you wearing?" "Do you do anything when you're in your room by yourself?" Just weird things like that, I guess.

Terri: The conversation was very graphic, which worried me more because of the words and some of the things that were said in it.

Carli: It seemed like he was real. It's a computer, but it seemed like he was real. I was twelve years old, and it seemed like he liked me.

Narrator: The online conversations that Carli's mother had accidentally found revealed the awful truth.

Terri: We found out there was a guy from Illinois that was 22 at the time, that had drove to Iowa for the purpose of having sex with my daughter. Who is to think that somebody, for the lack of a better term, wants to have sex with a little girl!

Narrator: Jonathon, a college senior from Illinois, had convinced Carli to meet him first at a nearby park, and then, for Carli's 13th birthday, he lured her to a motel room where he sexually exploited her.

Terri: He took her virginity. That's something she'll never get back. That is gone from a man that did not love her. And the kids don't realize it until it's too late.

Narrator: When Terri realized what had happened, she called for help.

Terri: I then called the police. And when they arrested him, Jonathon had been chatting with another 13¬ year-old girl that he had been trying to do the same thing with.

Narrator: When Carli was told that the police were involved, she felt betrayed, not by the Internet sexual predator but by her mother.

Carli: I was upset because, I didn't want to get him in trouble, but it was a thing that had to happen. And like right now, I do honestly -- or I am glad that she actually told.

Terri: She was a victim she did nothing wrong. I mean, they prey on these kids and it's horrible. I'm very lucky that my daughter is still alive. He drove from Illinois. Had he taken her across back, we wouldn't know. And then he threatened to kill her. This really tore up our family.

Tags: child predators Facebook Internet Iowa MySpace parenting social media teens

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