It has been a few years now since I had been channel surfing on my TV and came across a show called "To Catch A Predator" on NBC. Being a Sci-Fi nut, I was thinking of something much different than what I was seeing on the TV. Needless to say what I saw was breath taking to say the least. Here were grown men preying upon kids for sex. To me this is just about as bad of a crime as can be imagined. If it isn't bad enough that kids have to put up with school and peer pressure, just throw some sick adult men in there to really mess their worlds up. I paid close attention to the show and to the group Perverted-Justice that worked with Dateline's Chris Hansen. In its infancy the group Perverted-Justice had some growing pains, but they did end out being a solid organization that had the interest of Safety online for our children from a predator that had nothing but bad intentions for our children.
I hold a position in my town where I believe I need to pay attention to what is out in the world that can affect my community. The most important thing in our community is the children. When I saw this threat, I had to do something about it. I created an online persona, a fake identity, if you will, on the net and went in search of predators. I did not have to search, they pretty much came to me. I was amazed at what I had found. Not only did I find predators, I found lots of them. I could hardly believe it. I spoke to our police chief and informed him to what I was doing to see if law enforcement would take such a crime seriously. He was very willing to work with me on this. I informed him that I actually had a 21 year old male willing to come to our town to have sex with what he thought was a 13 year old girl. Only to find out when this individual showed up, YES he showed up, that he was really 24. It has been awhile now and there was much media attention at the time but things have died down. I have repeated my search for predator 2 more times since the arrest of the first individual and netted 2 more individuals. I believe I have proven that the threat is out there and I do see that Law Enforcement takes it seriously.
I created the site www.protectchildrenonline.org to help raise awareness of the rising threats that The Internet and Technology itself can pose to our children. From Internet Predators to CyberBullying and Sexting (The use of cell phones to send and receive indecent pictures of children) I will go into detail on this site, but for now I want Parents and Children alike to know that there is information out there and it is free. There is no reason not to take full advantage of it.
I know that the technology can be intimidating to many adults. I didn't have this type of access to computers when growing up. Our high school was just getting into this when I graduated in 1985. There was a very limited access for such technology. For our children's sake though we have to at least familiarize ourselves with the technology so we can prepare and protect them from these dangers which I have outlined.
When thinking of this site I was mainly concerned about my community and the surrounding communities. It is easy to see that it has much more of a reach than that now. It will, however, have links to specific Pennsylvania sites to help people in my local state react to and learn about these particular threats. I know for a fact that Parents can be in the dark about some of these things our kids are so in tune with. So I hope this along with community presentations I am planning will heighten the awareness of this very important issue. When I played the part of a 13 year old girl and had an adult male travel so far to have sex with her, it did catch media attention and people listened, but it is time to keep this topic in the forefront of parent's minds and keep it there. We can't let our guard down because when we do, a child gets abused and I don't want to see that in my area or any area.
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