Filed at 3:18 pm under by dcobranchi

    The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is running an ad that states that “Each year one in five children is solicited sexually on the internet.” Somehow I find that one hard to believe.


    Comment by
    Andrea R. in Missouri
    January 29th, 2006
    at 11:56 pm

    No kidding. Are one in five children even online?

    Comment by
    Brian Sassaman
    January 30th, 2006
    at 12:37 pm

    Well, according to The Onion, 90% of all internet users are FBI agents posing as 14 year old girls.

    It must be true. 😉

    Comment by
    January 30th, 2006
    at 1:55 pm

    This is going to be long, sorry. I don’t have my own blog.

    Several years ago, when I was thirty, I spent a lot of time online, and I hosted a chatroom. Teens used to come in and pour their problems out to the other chatters, and I used to privately listen to their suffering and try to provide a little perspective and a bit of humor and guidance where I could–how I wish a sympathetic adult had been there for me when was their age! I got a reputation for being “the kind of adult who you could talk to,” and a lot of kids started bringing their friends to me. Bright, good kids of all kinds, every one gifted in his or her way.

    On three separate and unrelated occasions, a kid propositioned ME. Oh, was I shocked. I felt so naive. I thought, “What did I do to make it so I looked safe enough to say this to? Didn’t their parents tell them this isn’t OK? Better me than some pervert, I guess, but how do the poor teachers deal with this stuff?” I talked to a level-headed, pragmatic, Christian-homeschooled young fellow who I was sure knew what was going on and could give me a word of advice, and to my horror he said, “Well, since I started talking to you, all the girls my age just seem so immature.” Think maybe that’s because I’m twice their age, huh?

    What could I do? Finally I stiffened my backbone, nominated honesty my best policy, and confessed to them that though I was charmed by their trust and loved the heck out of them, it was NOT in that way, and there was not a single chance that I would ever let them down by taking advantage of their (quite real) feelings. As the adult, it was my responsibility to help them understand why it was wrong.

    After a while the kids all drifted off to college and I closed the chatroom.

    The Internet makes everyone all seem the same age. That’s powerful stuff to teens, who are inclined to trust their peers most, and sympathetic adults who are not their parents almost as much. They’re bundles of the dry straw of inexperience doused with the lighter fluid of hormones. All the attention is being paid to the arsonists who like to play with fire. No attention is being paid to immature, irresponsible, morally crippled losers, no better than teens themselves, who are too attracted to the flame. In my experience, this second group forms a hefty proportion of adults who hang out in chatrooms that kids frequent. Decent adult chatters (there are lots of them) can never know a kid’s having trouble until the trouble already happens and the kid runs crying to them.

    Personally, I would exercise the same common sense as a parent that I would if I was teaching a seven-year-old to slice tomatoes with a santoku. Lessons in safety, good tools (like up-to-date antiviruses), loving supervision, enlightened estimate of the child’s abilities, and compassionate support in case of minor hurts.

    Please just be the adult and let your child learn to be one too.