Online predators target teens

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Predators search the internet for teenagers, looking specifically for those who are vulnerable and are unaware that they are the victims of catfishing. (Photo illustration by Taylor Byrd)
Predators search the internet for teenagers, looking specifically for those who are vulnerable and are unaware that they are the victims of catfishing. (Photo illustration by Taylor Byrd)

By Maureen Dunn

There are infinite scenarios where teens are victimized through online chat rooms.  A survey from 2003, childrenrescuenetwork.org, revealed that one out of seven kids from the ages of 11 to 17 were sexually solicited online. Whether a teen gave away personal information or was tricked into meeting a predator, teenagers were harmed emotionally or physically.

“I should have taken notice to red flags when talking to this girl online. She asked for my address and phone number. I gave her my phone number but after finding out who she really was I blocked her from all social communications,” Blake Spartaro, senior, said.

Not many teenagers know the real cause or effect of sharing personal information about themselves online. Some think that the crimes seen on TV are just an act for ratings and views, but that is not the case.

“My friends and I used to be in a chat room when we were younger. I started chatting with this boy and told him a lot of things but it turns out that he was actually a girl that I’ve known for awhile. She stole the picture from the internet and that really broke my heart. After that, I’ve been very careful online and I am aware that catfish really do exist,” June Waller, freshman, said.

A-better-child.org conducted a survey about teenagers being responsible online. 500 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 were asked if they have ever been in an uncomfortable or scary situation with a person they met online, of those surveyed, 32 percent of boys and 29 percent of girls said yes, they felt victimized in an online situation.

“When I started chatting with my now boyfriend of two years, I was very suspicious of if he was a catfish or not. When I met him, he went by a different name which later I found out was only because he was scared of sharing too much personal information online. Now that we have met in person many times, the tension is gone, and I am happy,” Jessica DeRoode, senior, said.

According to minormonitor.com, an adult and child informative website, studies show that 82 percent of online sex crimes against minors have started out with a predator using the victim’s personal information to gain trust. Minors are especially vulnerable when giving too much personal information to someone they have never met because the mind of a teenager has not fully developed and is not completely capable of making long-term decisions.

“Thankfully, I’ve never been in a dangerous situation with someone online, but I have had people ask me if they would want to meet in person. I always say no because that’s going a bit too far from what I’m comfortable with,” Taylor Byrd, junior, said.

Victims and authorities agree that everyone should be careful when it comes to the dangers of communicating online.