Teens Putting Themselves at Risk Online
By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writer
On Web sites such as MySpace.com, teenagers can find people around the
world who share their love of sports, their passion for photography or
their crush on the latest Hollywood star. But authorities say teens
are increasingly finding trouble in an online environment where
millions of people can, in seconds, find out where they go to school,
learn their interests, download their pictures and instantly send them
Police in the central Connecticut city of Middletown suspect that as
many as seven girls were recently assaulted by men they met on
MySpace. The FBI says it regularly receives calls from police trying
to figure out how to stay ahead of popular technology that puts
children a mouse click away from millions of strangers.
MySpace, one of several popular social networking sites, is a free
service that allows people to create Web sites that can be
personalized with information, pictures and movies. Searching for
someone is as easy as typing the name of a high school and the
photographic results are instantaneous.
"They're licking their lips and arching their back for the camera
because they can, and they have no idea of the consequences," said
Parry Aftab, an attorney and child advocate who runs http://WiredSafety.org,
a site that helps inform parents and site managers about online
MySpace said in a statement that it includes safety tips and prohibits
children under 14 from using the site. Aftab said MySpace, a
subsidiary of News Corp., has a great reputation for trying to keep
the site safe.
Some teens keep their personal profiles scant, aimed only at their
friends. Others describe their likes and dislikes, from the mundane
to the profane, and encourage people to send them messages.
"That is a perpetrator's dream come true," said Middletown Police
Sgt. Bill McKenna.
McKenna said several Middletown girls, between 12 and 16, told police
they met men on the MySpace who claimed to be teenagers. When they met
in person, he said, the girls were fondled or had consensual sex with
men who turned out to be older than they claimed.
In at least one case, McKenna believes the assault happened at the
girl's home while her parents were there, but unaware of what their
daughter was doing in her room with the computer..
Last month, 14-year-old Judy Cajuste was found strangled and naked in
a Newark, New Jersey, garbage bin and 15-year-old Kayla Reed was found
naked and dead in a canal not far from her Livermore, California, home.
Both deaths remain unsolved and the use of MySpace.com has surfaced in
As recently as a few years ago, Aftab said the profile of an online
victim was a young woman who felt alone, didn't have many friends and
Then, in 2002, 13-year-old Christina Long of Danbury was strangled in
a Danbury mall parking lot by a 26-year-old man she met on the
Internet. Long was a popular cheerleader, a good student and an altar
girl. The profile went out the window.
Now, Aftab said, it's no surprise that a wealthy state such as
Connecticut is seeing a spate of problems.
"This is a rich and upper-middle-class problem," Aftab said. "They
have too much time, too much technology and their parents aren't
around to keep an eye on them."
Connecticut's FBI office was the first in New England to launch an
online, undercover program to catch sexual predators. Timothy Egan,
the squad's supervisor, said parents often don't know their children
are using these Web sites or what information is being released. The
FBI hopes to train more local officers about these sites in coming
months. The investigators are currently working undercover trying to
catch/locate/arrest predators on MySpace.com as well as at their
other favorite locations, aol.com and yahoo.com chat rooms
Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano, who has strictly limited
the information his 10- and 12-year-old children put on the Internet,
said he was surprised to learn that they had been contacted by
strangers they believed were pedophiles. His kids ignored it, Morano
said, but parents need to closely monitor Internet activity.
"You wouldn't leave your kid on the side of the highway without
supervision," Morano said. "You shouldn't put them on the Internet
highway without the same type of supervision."
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Please recall that http://myspace.com
is also the home base for Jacob Robida, the 18 year old guy who on
Wednesday night this past week went into 'Puzzles' the gay bar in
Massachusetts and shot or axed several of the patrons. People who have
seen his blog/web pages on My Space.com say it is a lot of Nazi
propoganda and illustrations, along with promotions for his music
recording business, 'Psycho Music'. He still is at large, police have
not been able to find him. PAT]