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Help needed

Posted by on May. 24, 2013 at 12:20 PM
  • 30 Replies

I really need some advice regarding my 12 yo daughter. She loves to play the online game "FreeRealms". The game is set up so that the kids can't exchange phone numbers or addresses. I was okay with this, until I found out that the kids (and I use the word kids very loosely) started chatting on Chatango. She lied about her age on her profile, saying she was 16, not 12. Okay, so here's the deal. She "met" this MAN who is 19. She gave him her cell number. They wound up sexting and talking over the phone. When I found all the texts, I confronted her, and texted him telling him to leave her alone.

We took her phone and her laptop. She only gets to have her phone 2 days a week. Those are the days she has to ride her bike to school. She only has it in case of emergencies, and all texting capabilities were taken from her phone. She wound up earning her laptop back. But last night I wandered downstairs for some water and found her on the laptop. We talked for quite a while about everything. Then I started looking at her chat conversation with this guy. She actually gave him our address, "just in case". I asked her, "just in case"  what. She didn't really have an answer for it.

Anyway, once again, the laptop and phone are hidden in my closet until further notice.

I need help with how to make her realize what she's doing is dangerous. Does anyone know any links to any articles or websites that describe what happens or can happen if she continues to do this.

I also need to figure out some "punishments" and rewards for her behavior.

Please, any help is well worth it.

P.S. I guess I should also say that she has been diagnosed with bi-polar (rapid cycling mood disorder), as well as OCD and ADD.

by on May. 24, 2013 at 12:20 PM
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by Member on May. 24, 2013 at 12:25 PM
1 mom liked this

No laptop, No phone. She can't be trusted. She gave out your phone number and address to a online stranger! She doesn't understand there are predators out there!!  (Too bad she isn't old enough to see that show on MNBC Swith Dateline NBC Chris Hanson, To catch a predator. These scumbags go to JAIL for soliciting underage minors to sex etc. It all starts innocent enough... right? Yea, right.)

by on May. 24, 2013 at 12:29 PM

We did take the laptop and the phone. But eventually she'll have both again. She has to have the laptop for school use. And the phone on Tuesday's and Thursdays for the bike ride to and from school.

Hubby wants to lay down some rules. I'm all for writing them out and when she breaks them, punishing. But what kinds of punishments? I truly want to spank her butt, but she's getting too old for that.

I'm just really scared for her safety.

by Member on May. 24, 2013 at 12:29 PM

Here are some links that might help:

By Bob SullivanTechnology correspondent
updated 2/3/2006 7:13:27 AM ET2006-02-03T12:13:27

After watching dozens of online predators march into a house looking for sex with children during three separate "Dateline" investigations, you might feel moved to do something. One productive way to spent that energy is use the show as a launching pad for a serious talk with your children about the hidden dangers of the Internet. This page is here to help.

Child and family therapist Susan Shankle has worked with us to create a series of questions and discussion guides for parents and teachers. You'll also find links to the various "Dateline" investigations, including a recent piece about kids who reveal too much information on their personal blogs.

Many viewers and educators have e-mailed looking for copies of the "Dateline" shows: You can watch them online and find out how to order copies from the front page of the "To Catch a Predator" special report.

The following discussion questions are basic, open-ended, and meant for all ages. They are simply conversation starters, and are best asked immediately after watching the "To Catch a Predator" programs with children. Most important, Shankle said, is that adults must view this as an opportunity to open an honest dialogue and listen, not preach or punish.

"The main reason children don't tell their parents what is going on is because the kids are afraid they will get in trouble," Shankle said. Avoid judgments and histrionics, she said. "Kids stop listening when they're being lectured or yelled at - adults do too, nobody likes it. A realistic presentation of facts and good listening skills are what is needed, along with follow-up at a later time to make sure your points got across and continue to have value for the children."


1. Do these people (on the show) look like what you think perverts look like? Which one, if you passed him on the street would look most like your idea of a pervert? Which one would look least like one? Why?

This could lead to a discussion about how some of the men, like the one who showed up naked, seemed more suspicious than others. Starting simple may put children at ease. It may also help children learn that predators can look like anyone. Participate in the conversation by identifying the ones you thought looked more suspicious than others, and point out the differences in your perspectives.

2. Do you know anyone who has ever been solicited for sex on the Net? What did you do? What did he or she do?

Some children will answer this question, some won't. Forcing the child to tell you is not the point. Creating a comfortable atmosphere for your child to be willing to discuss the subject IS the point. You are not asking the child if he or she has been solicited directly, just if they know someone who has. Questions like this one help the child begin thinking about the subject and formulate plans if it DOES happen. You are also making the point that's it's okay for the child to talk with you about it without repercussions.

3. What are some things you can do to keep yourself safe?

Adults might be surprised at answers to this one. Children will think of things that adults would completely miss. Give the children positive reinforcement ("Great idea!") for suggestions. By doing this adults continue to create an on-going comfort zone for the children to share information. Encourage children to have conversations on their own about this question.

4. What can I do to help keep you safe?

Listen to what they say, make a list, put it on the fridge and DO IT, whatever it is, within reason, of course. Revisit the list periodically, ask children if there's anything they'd like to add or subtract.

5. Let's just say you know for a fact someone is stalking you. What would you do differently on the Web? Would you remove anything from your blog?

This should at least get the children thinking without getting into power struggles. You can also ask them to show you the places they visit online, including their own blogs. To ease potential tension in that conversation, consider giving the kids 24 hours warning - at least the first time - so they have time to clean up their sites before you see them. Subsequent site visits can be a surprise, but if this is your first conversation about the topic, it's best to avoid a "gotcha" confrontation that will likely lead to less communication, not more.

As for general advice, Shankle says parents should be on the lookout for weird packages in the mail. Perpetrators will send gifts and even airline tickets to convince the child to meet in person. Reluctance to participate with kids their own age is also an important warning sign.

Isolated children who feel alone are at the greatest risk, she said - such as kids who want to run away, or who are in abusive situations either at home or at school. That's why dialogue is so important.

"Perpetrators hate involved parents," she said.

Finally, parents who feel they simply cannot talk with the children about this topic should find a qualified therapist in their area.

Shankle can be reached at

by Member on May. 24, 2013 at 12:33 PM

What you don't know can hurt kids

Parents must understand online tools to protect their children


By Bob Sullivan

Many safety guides for children using the Net read as if they were written by Robert Fulghum. Everything I ever needed to know to stay safe in the virtual world, I learned in the real world. Don't go scary places by yourself. If someone is making you uncomfortable, just leave, and tell your parents. Don't look at pornographic pictures, and you won't have to worry about them. But most important - don't talk to strangers, and never give them personal information.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

If it were simple, you wouldn't hear repeated stories of FBI raids collaring dozens of pedophiles who swap files - and hunt for children - online. There wouldn't be thousands of cases of Internet-related child luring tracked by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And 1 in 5 children wouldn't be telling the Justice Department that they'd received an unwanted sexual advance in surveys.

It's not simple because strangers online are hard to identify, since the Net is the land of make-believe. And just as kids are often better than their parents at playing make believe, they're often better at keeping up with technology, too. They speak a language -- the text message language -- their parents can't understand. And so, they can get away with murder, and, tragically, so can Internet predators.

What to look out for
Some parents are tempted to dismiss the problem as no different from your teen-age son sneaking a peek at Playboy - on paper, or online. It's just a chance to see explicit images. No big deal.

Partly true, experts say. The problem is not nudie Web sites. Most of those require credit card numbers, anyway.

"Pictures don't hurt kids," said Parry Aftab, author of "A Parent's Guide to the Internet." Aftab also runs "People hurt kids .... As long as parents think the only real risk is the kids will see adult sex content, they won't do anything."

The real threat to children is people who lurk in chat rooms and Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels who hope to lure your child into having online sex or a face-to-face meeting. It's impossible to say how many pedophiles there are lurking on the Net, but if you doubt the severity of the problem, log on to almost any IRC channel. You're unlikely to last 60 seconds without being propositioned.

Former U.S. customs agent Marcus Lawson once pretended to be young boys or girls for a living. He arrested about 30 pedophiles a year - as big a caseload as he could handle. When MSNBC interviewed him, he was working an IRC "dad-daughter sex" channel. There were 73 users. ("Hmm. He wants to know if my daughter has breasts yet. I'll tell him no.")

"I don't think the Internet has created more pedophiles. It's removed the societal stigma that kind of kept people in check," he said. "Before the Net, pedophilia was a lonely business. Now 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you can validate yourself, find hundreds and hundreds of people who will tell you there's nothing wrong with having sex with children."

 Video: Net dangers So the real trouble for your kids begins not with information coming into your computer but with what goes out of your computer. The problem is what your child says in e-mail, posts to a bulletin board or writes in a chat room.

And Aftab says parents have an entirely new set of online issues to worry about. She calls it cyber-bullying, and it works like this: a vengeful classmate might sneak a compromising photo of someone else -- perhaps illegally drinking at a party -- with a camera-equipped cell phone, then threaten to put it on the Internet unless some form of payment is made.

In other cases, Aftab says, victims of real-world bullying turn the tables, and publish explicit materials about others online. In one situation, Aftab consulted with a mother who found pictures of her 9-year-old twin daughters posted on a sex-related Internet site. The poster was angry at the mother and seeking revenge.

"It's the kind of thing we used to do on bathroom walls, only this bathroom is seen by 700 million people," Aftab said.

Use technology to fight technology
Many authorities suggest using technology to combat technology. Aftab recommends parents regularly Google their children's names, nicknames, even addresses, to see if anything unsavory has been posted about them. Others recommend filtering software which limits the things kids can do online, and the information they can reveal about themselves.

About 75 percent of the parents responding to an informal MSNBC survey conducted three years ago said they'd consider using software to limit their child's ability to communicate with others over the Internet. Filtering software like NetNanny, for example, can be set to prevent children from even typing personal information such as their name, address and phone number. But users were evenly split over whether they'd read their child's e-mail, as the FBI suggests in its Parent's Guide to the Internet.

"I _HONESTLY_ wonder if most of you realize what you are saying when you say read your kids e-mail," said David Weaver on bulletin board that was hosted by "Reading a kid's e-mail is like: Reading normal mail they send Eavesdropping on all their conversations Picking up another phone line when they are on the phone."

One response: "Hands off parenting is not the answer. Blind trust and faith are why you see kids pictures on the back of milk cartons. Now, keep in mind I am not going to go through all their mail every night. They should just be prepared to answer for anything if and when I do."

But while three-quarters of MSNBC respondents said they'd consider technological help, few parents actually use it -- under 5 percent, according to some surveys. These programs work in a variety of ways, but generally either block your computer from a predetermined set of yucky Web sites; limit your computer to a predetermined list of Web sites; or block individual Web pages with offensive words. It's easy to see the limitations of all three, and apparently parents have, too.

Aftab, who thinks filtering software can be an aid for parents, says some mistakenly believe the software is too technical to use or easy for clever kids to foil. Or they shrug and say, "I trust my kid."

But experts say parents often aren't really aware of the extent of the trouble their kids can get in on the Internet. That's why Seattle police detective Leanne Shirey starts her seminars for parents by posing as a 14-year-old girl in an AOL chat room. She then lets parents watch as a pedophile "grooms" her. There's never a need to fake the demonstration.

"The problem is we educated kids before we educated the parents," Shirey said. "Some of these people I see have never turned on a computer. They have to understand that even if they don't have a computer at home, they have to have rules."

Baltimore County Public Schools Internet safety coordinator Della Curtis said a survey of parents in the 104,000-family district showed that most don't know what their children are doing in school with the Internet, and that lack of information is a chief cause of anxiety.

"I know of one parent who ... took the keyboard with her when she left the home," Curtis said. You might call that filtering hardware.

Not terribly constructive. Here's a collection of suggestions from several experts that's a little more practical:

There is no substitute for keeping up with the technology. Don't shrug or say it's beyond you. If it is, ask your children to train you. That will make sure you keep up with them.

Learn how to examine your Web browser's "History" files, or cache. Even if you don't do it, make sure your children know it's possible for you to know where they've been.

Look around your desktop, start menu or applications folder for suspicious programs.

Keep abreast of all your child's e-mail accounts; understand that free Web e-mail may allow your child to have plenty of e-mail accounts you don't know about.

If your child will chat, take some time to come up with an alias, or fake name. Aftab even suggests you give them a fake address and phone number so, if they're being harassed, they have a way of vacating the situation.

Play around in Usenet and IRC chat rooms so you can talk to your children intelligently about them, and perhaps decide to ban their use. Contact your Internet provider to see what kind of Usenet groups are available.

Of course, the Robert Fulghum-style advice is useful. Do the things you would normally do in the real world. Get to know your children's cyberfriends - certainly don't let them meet anyone in person without your attendance. Because in the end, computers don't hurt kids: People hurt kids.

by Member on May. 24, 2013 at 12:35 PM

Do potential predators ever think they’ll get caught?

By Chris Hansen, Dateline Correspondent

The fireman
Tonight we're back in Ocean County, N.J., for the second part of our "To Catch A Predator" investigation. Among the first men you'll meet here is a guy who uses new ruse to convince a 14-year-old girl named Jane to let him come over to her family's house and have sex. Jane is really a decoy from Perverted Justice.

In his online chat 42-year old Rick Burnham pretends to be a 21-year-old college student going by the screen name "uconnbluenwhite". Then he introduces "Jane" to his older friend "stevetakespix" who supposed to be a real cool guy who just happens to be interested in taking the virginity of a 14-year-old.

We think what he's trying to do is not scare off the young teen by giving his real age in the beginning of the chat. As you watch Burnham walk into our hidden camera house, he's just driven three hours from Connecticut. Watch as it appears he want to get right down to business. He chats with Casey, our decoy, for a bit and when she excuses herself to go to the next room, he's right behind her. As I walk out to talk to him, we almost bump into each other.

That's when I see something sticking out of his back pocket. When I ask him what it is, he says it's his cell phone. I know it's not a cell phone so I say: "No. The other back pocket." As you're about to see, the item he pulls out leaves little doubt about his intent. Burnham, by the way, is retired fire department captain who says he's now a freelance photographer.

Grooming technique
We're about to see another man who makes himself comfortable on the beach of our multi-million dollar home on the ocean. James Marcott, 32, doesn't seem one bit nervous as his sits down to talk to our decoy posing as a 13-year-old girl. Perhaps he has experience talking to teenagers.

In his on line chat he told the decoy that he had earlier met a 15-year-old girl online. Watch now as he tells Casey that not only did he met her, he also had sex with her. When I talk to Marcott, he changes his story, saying he never had sex with a 15-year-old. Why would someone say this online?

Experts tell us it's a common grooming technique used by potential predators. Almost as if to say: "It's ok. Other kids you age have already done this." But in this case it's going to be another lead to be followed up on by detectives with the Ocean County Prosecutors Office.

Everyday guys
Once again, we see just how many of the guys who surface in our investigations look like everyday guys who don't stand out of a crowd. If you live in Pennsylvania, you might have even purchased a car from one of our next visitors.

When we meet 39-year old Jeremy Keister he has a job selling luxury cars. Watch as Keister walks into our home. Something spooks him right away. He almost freezes. I think it may have been when Casey offered him some brownies that something clicked and he maybe realizes he's just walked into a "To Catch A Predator" investigation. All doubt is removed when he admits he knows exactly who I am. He even says: "It's nice to meet you."

Head first
You may have seen last week's preview to tonight's show, where we showed video of one of our visitors who went head first into the bar in the family room of our hidden camera house. People have been asking me about it all week. Tonight, you'll see the whole story.

The man I'm talking about is 37-year-old Kazuo Akustso. When we meet him he's a shirt-and-tie salesman at a major Manhattan department store. I have seen a lot during the three years we've been doing these investigations, but nothing quite like this. Kazuo walks in, chats with our decoy Casey, and then I walk out. What you don't see on camera is that the color literally drains from his face.

I can't be sure that he knew who I was or what he has just walked into, but he knows it's not good. He goes down on his knees, gets back up and then apparently faints, crashing head-first into the bar. A medic comes in to check him out. Later police say he's OK.

What were they thinking?
As we finish up in New Jersey, consider this: nearly half of the 28 men who surfaced in this investigation had seen one of our earlier investigations. What does that say to me? Some people have suggested that some of these guys want to get caught, perhaps maybe even want to be on our show. Possibly, but I still think most of these guys just really don't think it could happen to them.

by Member on May. 24, 2013 at 12:40 PM

Polly Klaas Foundation. De Leo talks about the sting conducted in Petaluma, and his advice for parents who worry about kids and their online use.

Here's an excerpt of what De Leo advises parents:

  1. Learn about the Internet and learn what the dangers are. Parents need to sit by their child, and work with them. Know that the Internet is also a highway. No parent who has a son or daughter that just learned how to drive would give them the keys and say, “Go where you want, do what you want.” Share information with them about real things that happened to real kids.
  2. Create expectations that they’re going to be monitored.
  3. Let them know that you’re going to be there for them in case things go haywire. Make them feel that they can come back to you and say, “I am in trouble.”

I think #3 is important. Kids are sneaky. They are going to do things that mom and dad don't like, and are afriad to get into trouble for. But, they also need to understand that if they do get themselves into trouble that they need to get help from mom and dad to make sure it goes away. Will mom and dad get mad? Yes, probably, but it is only temporary until the problem can be fixed. And when it comes to their safety and safety of the family, there is no waiting. Get help right away, and deal with the consequences of stupid choices and mistakes.

by Member on May. 24, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Here's something concrete parents can do: Call a "family meeting" and have a conversation on Internet safety. Below are two family contracts from one for parents, and another for kids. Go over them together and use them as discussion points and guidelines on safe Web usage. Don't forget to sign the contract!

Parents' pledge
Downloadable version from (PDF)

  1. I will get to know the services and Web sites my child uses. If I don't know how to use them, I'll get my child to show me how.
  2. I will set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use by my children and will discuss these rules and post them near the computer as a reminder. I'll remember to monitor their compliance with these rules, especially when it comes to the amount of time they spend on the computer.
  3. I will not overreact if my child tells me about a problem he or she is having on the Internet. Instead, we'll work together to try to solve the problem and prevent it from happening again.
  4. I promise not to use a PC or the Internet as an electronic babysitter.
  5. I will help make the Internet a family activity and ask my child to help plan family events using the Internet.
  6. I will try to get to know my child's "online friends" just as I try get to know his or her other friends.

Kids' pledge
Downloadable version from (PDF)

  1. I will not give out personal information such as my address, telephone number, parents' work address/telephone number, or the name and location of my school without my parents' permission.
  2. I will tell my parents right away if I come across any information that makes me feel uncomfortable.
  3. I will never agree to get together with someone I "meet" online without first checking with my parents. If my parents agree to the meeting, I will be sure that it is in a public place and bring my mother or father along.
  4. I will never send a person my picture or anything else without first checking with my parents.
  5. I will not respond to any messages that are mean or in any way make me feel uncomfortable. It is not my fault if I get a message like that. If I do I will tell my parents right away so that they can contact the service provider.
  6. I will talk with my parents so that we can set up rules for going online. We will decide upon the time of day that I can be online, the length of time I can be online, and appropriate areas for me to visit. I will not access other areas or break these rules without their permission.
  7. I will not give out my Internet password to anyone (even my best friends) other than my parents.
  8. I will check with my parents before downloading or installing software or doing anything that could possibly hurt our computer or jeopardize my family's privacy.
  9. I will be a good online citizen and not do anything that hurts other people or is against the law.
  10. I will help my parents understand how to have fun and learn things online and teach them things about the Internet, computers and other technology.

Parents' contract courtesy of: Kids' contract: Items one through six are adapted from the brochure Child Safety on the Information Highway by Lawrence J. Magid. Copyright 1994 and 1998 by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

by on May. 24, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Wonderful info and sites thank you mom22tumblebugs! I know you are probably having talks with her about the dangers, but include asking her, does she really not know the dangers? There are psychos out there like the man who kidnapped the girls in Cleveland and at HER AGE. Does she want to be raped, tortured and a slave for the rest of her life? NO! I know that's scary, but THAT'S REALITY.

by on May. 24, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Oh good grief, these are awesome sites. Thank you so much. It's a long weekend. This sounds like the perfect project for a long weekend.

I really appreciate your help!

by on May. 24, 2013 at 1:05 PM


I asked her that last night. I said "do you want him to come to our house and rape you?" she said no!

Still I don't think she realized the extent of this.

Quoting sonshining:

Wonderful info and sites thank you mom22tumblebugs! I know you are probably having talks with her about the dangers, but include asking her, does she really not know the dangers? There are psychos out there like the man who kidnapped the girls in Cleveland and at HER AGE. Does she want to be raped, tortured and a slave for the rest of her life? NO! I know that's scary, but THAT'S REALITY.


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