Oh the things our parents never had to teach us … like not to enable GPS tracking technology on our cell phones so that sexual predators would be able to track us down and rape us. Unfortunately, it’s something that we’re going to have to educate our own kids on, because there are some seriously sick people out there that will exploit technology to commit heinous crimes against our children.
A 24-year-old man was arrested in the San Diego area last week on 10 felony counts, including having sex with a 12-year-old girl he met on the social flirting site Skout.com. The website connects users who are geographically near each other through their GPS-enabled phones.
Christopher Bradley Nutt has pleaded not guilty to raping a 12-year-old that was found May 28 by police at his house in the San Diego suburbs. Her mother had reported her missing the day before. Police Lt. Craig Carter reported that Nutt and the girl had met through Skout.com, and that investigators had found several inappropriate text exchanges between the two on her phone.
Skout.com says it is “100% up to you if you want to make contact with someone — or if you want to respond to someone who is trying to contact you.” Experts warn that children might not fully understand what they’re getting themselves into by engaging with anonymous people over social networking sites.
Technology has changed, but stranger danger principles have not. We can’t keep our little ones under our wings forever, and we need to equip them with skills to stay safe in the real world. With stories like this tragic one, we parents need to take it upon ourselves to teach our children some basic safety principles of interacting online – on our phones and our computers.
Behind every screen name is a real person, and that person might not be who they say they are. Even if they exchange pictures, it’s not hard to send a picture of someone other than yourself. In fact, tell your young kids never to exchange pictures without asking permission first. Just like the man in the windowless van probably isn’t inviting you in for a piece of candy, the stranger demanding pictures online probably isn’t asking for them to write a tweeny-boop love song.
Kids should never meet up with online friends in the real world unless prior communication between parents has been established, and never ever without a guardian present.
Spy on your kids. Look at their FaceBook pages. Grab their phones occasionally and scroll through the texts. If they’re not doing anything untoward, there shouldn’t be anything to hide. It isn’t like reading the private thoughts of a diary; it’s monitoring communication with real, live people that might not have their best interest at heart.
Bad things are going to happen in the world, but as parents, let’s do our best to thwart the nefarious attempts of rapists and murderers to get their disgusting hands on our precious kids.
Image via Peter Castleton/Flickr