Residents in the area where I live (Northwest Arkansas) were shocked by the arrest of the athletics director at Fayetteville High School on October 22 in connection with the Internet stalking of a child. The 50 year old, who has taught at the school for the last thirty years had been communicating for two weeks with someone he thought was a 14 year old girl. In reality he was digging his own proverbial grave: the 14 year old girl turned out to be a male detective working in the Cyber Crimes division of the Benton County Sheriff’s office. Wow. His bad.
During the two week exchange, the AD sent pics of his penis,which begs the question: in what universe does a pervert live in if he thinks a 14-year-old girl is interested in seeing a 50 year old penis? But I digress, and really don’t wanna know anyway.
In addition to the pictures, the teacher made comments about school girls in short plaid skirts and asked to see a picture of “her” breasts. Given the fact that this guy was, in fact, a teacher who is around school girls all day, every day makes this all the more nauseating; it also underscores how easy it is for predators to gain access into an adolescent girl or boy’s world.
Trolling for Victims
According to research, online predators troll the internet targeting kids who are more technologically advanced than their parents, which probably isn’t that difficult. They also look for kids who are emotionally vulnerable and who feel at odds with their parents and/or teachers by commiserating with them.
This is scary stuff, because all teenagers at some point feel at odds with the adults around them; that’s a signature, predictable attribute of nearly all teenagers. Because of this across- the- board vulnerability coupled with the far reaching access the internet affords perpetrators, parents and teachers must be diligent when it comes to their kids’ online activity. Here are some warning signs that your teen may be communicating with an untoward predator, according to the FBI’s Cyber Division:
- They spend lots of time online, especially at night and on the weekends
- You discover porn on your home computer
- Your child gets phone calls or gifts from someone you don’t know
- They change the screen or turn off the computer when you walk into the room
- They are using an online account belonging to someone else
Online predators rely on secrecy and the anonymity of the internet to their advantage; parental due diligence is essential.
Because the cyber world of the predator is so secretive, intervention on the part of parents shouldn’t include forbidding teens to get online. Doing so could drive an adolescent further underground, which is just fine with the average pervert.
Instead the FBI suggests the following to reduce risk:
- Place the computer in a common area of the house rather than in your child’s room
- Put parental controls in place on various devices, but do not rely solely on them
- Demonstrate the versatility of the internet; show them there’s more to cyberspace than chat rooms and social media sites
Finally, if you suspect your child is being stalked by a predator, contact local law enforcement. Many state and local agencies now have cyber units in place that focus solely on internet crime.