I've had the opportunity to watch the NBC Dateline series "To Catch a Predator", and I must say I am continuously taken aback by these men who put themselves in such a disgusting position.
In case you haven't seen it, here's how it works: Dateline has volunteers pose as 12- or 13-year-olds and log in to chat rooms where they wait to be hit on by adults looking for sex. The decoys tell the adults they are home alone and sometimes they say they are interested in sex, a few pretend they are eager to meet.
The volunteers, who come from Perverted-Justice, a controversial citizen's organization that aggressively seeks to ferret out online predators, engage in often stomach turning, sexually charged chats with the adults who contact them. Much of the chat room dialogue is too "graphic and disgusting" for Dateline to share. Some men, Dateline reports, send illicit photos of themselves to the decoys.
In each installment, dozens of men eventually show up at the address provided by the decoys, presumably for a sexual encounter. They enter the house and are soon confronted by Dateline correspondent Chris Hansen. They are arrested soon afterward.
If you think that this is a big city problem, you are wrong. When Dateline aired "To Catch a Predator IV", the sting was set up in Greenville, Ohio. Even in small-town America vulnerable young teens are not far from danger. These predators were willing to drive for hours, sometimes even crossing state lines, to have sex with a thirteen-year-old girl.
Many parents of computer literate teenagers are not aware of this problem. I have met many parents who treat their computer illiteracy as something to be proud of: "Oh, Jenny is on that computer all the time. Me, I don't know how to turn the thing on."
Guess what? Jenny is making a date with a guy whose online photo looks like Brad Pitt, but who, in reality, looks like Larry The Cable Guy. Whether you mask your computer illiteracy as an excuse, saying that you are too old to learn how to use a computer or that you don't want to be a slave to technology, you're wrong.
Dateline has an "Online Safety Kit" that every parent should review. It can be found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15162866/.
Although many predators will travel great distances to solicit their victims, Niagara County does have a Sex Offender website at which you may enter an address and it will tell you all registered sex offenders living within one mile. It can be found at http://www.watchsystems.com/ny/niagara/.