Sex Offenders on Myspace: What Do You Tell Your Kids about Online Predators?

Posted March 13, 2009 by

Photo of annita-woz

A recent CNN report states that 2,000+ sex offenders from North Carolina are registered users on the popular social networking site MySpace.com.  MySpace was ordered to turn over the names to officials and Facebook was also asked to do the same.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with MySpace or Facebook, here’s the skinny. Both are Internet sites where users can post information and pictures about themselves and allow other people on the site to view those pictures and read the information if they accept them as their “friend”.  Some users have more than 500 friends, and it is a common to compete to have the most.

Though the rules include age verification, many users younger than 18 are on these sites with or without parental permission.  Heck, I know many parents who are on and have “friended”  their kids for the sole purpose of keeping an eye on them. Clearly this contradicts all parenting advice that we should not be our child’s friend, but we do live in a technology age…so perhaps this is part of it?

I actually cannot think of a better way for a sexual predator, a pedophile even, to troll for information on children or vulnerable adults, since many users are unaware of — or forget to use — the built-in security cautions that can block access to private information.

Sexual predators typically target and plan acts of abuse. They are patient, persistent and often obsessed with those they are pursuing.  After identifying a victim, the predator, who sometimes poses online as a teenager, tries to develop a relationship that will ultimately become sexual.

Add this personality profile to thousands of unsuspecting, invincible, young technology users operating on social networking sites, and you have a recipe for very unsafe situations.

Worse, the loopholes in the law prevent authorities from prosecuting these registered sexual offenders.  In Florida for example, “The language of the Florida law says it is illegal to use a computer for soliciting, seducing or luring a child for sexual contact to a minor who resides in this state.” That means a suspect can communicate with a minor outside Florida, and not be tried on state charges. Officials at the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office are working to get an amendment to the statute that would either eliminate those words or add the phrase “any other state.”

I can’t think of any other loophole that should be closed faster nationwide than this one!

On Facebook and Myspace, I’ve seen phone numbers, email addresses, street addresses and cell phone numbers posted for all to see. Sometimes the user profile gives information on where people work– and more. I have seen members post a phone number and tell their friends to call them so they can get together. When I asked a college student why she was posting her cell phone number on the site she said, “they have my whole name on the page already and can easily look up my address and phone number anyway.”  Good point, but why make it any easier than it is? Beyond that logic, I was at a loss for how to deter her from doing this again.

How do parents handle social networking sites and what do you tell your children about security and safety on these kinds of sites?

About

Annita Wozniak grew up in a large, imperfect family in the Midwest. "As adults we have the power to build children up or tear them down," she says about the challenges of being a responsible parent, "and we never know when what we say is going to be a defining moment in a child's life." Woz is a writer and child-grower living in the Midwest with her husband and their three inspirational children. She is always learning. You can visit her website at annitawoz.wordpress.com

Popular on Empowering Parents

Reader Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Ashley Report

    Let them know how dangerous of a situation he/she could fall into without even knowing it ..Be very clear/detailed.

    When making a profile:
    Give as least info as possible to actually have profile.
    NEVER post address/phone number/job info on profile or anyones wall ..send through a message if you need to communicate that type of info.
    KEEP profile/pics PRIVATE ..to your FRIENDS ONLY!
    DENY all freind requests if you do not PERSONALLY know that person ..if you cant tell if you know them and there profile is private as well ..DENY it!

    Express that Myspace/Facebook is not a place to meet new people ..it is a place to keep in touch w/ your previous/current freinds!

    Reply
  2. Ryan Report

    With Spectra Pro, you can see every image that appeared on your screen, including conversations. We check it all the time. The last thing that happened is we saw her put her first name and cell number on a celebrity website. We told her not to do this, as any kook around the world could call her on her cell. She had not thought about that, and says she won’t do it again.

    Reply
  3. Annita Woz Report

    excellent use of technology to protect ourselves from technology! thank you Ryan. So i can see what she is doing and who she is communicating with and what they are typing back and forth, etc? Have you ever actually checked to see what it captured? or has she never surfed/written a bad thing since it has been added?

    Reply
  4. Ryan Report

    We purchased Spectra Pro monitoring system. Google it to find the website. It was the most highly rated system when we bought it about a year ago. You can download it on to your computer from the Spectra Pro website. It should still be less than $100 and it is worth far more than this. You can see everything that was done on the computer. Our 15 year old daughter knows we have it, thus limits her surfing of bad sites or using bad language, which we tell her is not allowed while she lives here.

    Reply
  5. Dorothy Report

    I have recently become my 16-year-old daughter’s MySpace “friend,” and I’m amazed at the 300+ “friends” she has. I’m trying to figure out how tight a leash to try to use. If I over-react and insist that she de-friend everyone that I don’t know it might just drive her “underground” to a new site I don’t know about. I know that they are growing up in a very different world and that I can’t deny that fact. I’d be interested in how other parents are integrating themselves into this world that our kids inhabit.

    Reply

SEARCHING FOR SOLUTIONS TO DISRESPECT?

Join our NEW Total Transformation® Learning Center!

Practical, affordable parenting help starting at $14.95/month BECOME A MEMBER TODAY!

Empowering Parents is the leading online resource for child behavior help

150,000+

Parent Coaching Sessions

7.5 Million

Global Visitors

10+ Years

Helping Families