Friends

26 July 2010

Urban Myth

Shannon could hear the footsteps behind her as she walked home. The thought of being followed made her heart beat faster. ‘You’re being silly,’ she told herself, ‘no-one is following you.’

To be safe she began to walk faster, but the footsteps kept up with her pace. She was afraid to look back and was glad she was almost home.

Shannon said a quick prayer, ‘Please, God, get me home safe.’ Inside the house the porch light burned bright. She leaned against the door for a moment, shivering with relief that she was in the safety of her home.

She glanced out the window to see if anyone was there.

The sidewalk was empty.

After tossing her books on the sofa, she decided to grab a snack and go on line.


Logging on under her screen name ByAngel213 and checked her buddy list. GoTo123 was on line. She sent him an instant message, ‘Hi, I’m glad you’re on! I thought someone was following me home today. It was really weird!

GoTo123: LOL. You watch too much TV. Why would someone be following you? Don’t you live in a safe neighborhood?

ByAngel213: Of course I do. LOL. I guess it was my imagination cuz I didn’t see anybody when I looked out.

GoTo123: Unless you gave your name out on line. You haven’t done that have you?

ByAngel213: Course not. I’m not stupid you know.

GoTo123: Did you have softball game after school today?

ByAngel213: Yes, and we won!

GoTo123: That’s great! Who did you play?

ByAngel213: We played the Hornets. Their uniforms are so gross. They look like bees.

GoTo123: LOL. What’s your team called?

ByAngel213: We’re the Canton Cats. We have tiger paws on our uniforms. They’re really cool.

GoTo123: Did you pitch?

ByAngel213: No, I play second base. I gotta go. My homework has to be done before my parents get home. I don’t want them mad at me.

GoTo123: Catch you later. Bye!

Meanwhile….

GoTo123 went to the member menu and began to search for her profile. When it came up, he highlighted it and printed it out. He took out a pen and began to write down what he knew about Angel so far.

Her name was Shannon.
Birthday: Jan 3 1985: 13
State where she lived: North Carolina
Hobbies: softball, chorus, skating and going to the Mall.

Besides this information, he knew she lived in Canton because she’d just told him.

He knew she stayed by herself until 6.30 every afternoon until her parents came home from work.

He knew she played softball on Thursday afternoons on the school team and the team was named the Canton Cats.

Her favourite number 7 was printed on her jersey.

He knew she was in seventh grade at Canton Junior High School.

She had told him all this in conversations they had on line.

He had enough information to find her now.

Shannon didn’t tell her parents about the incident on the way home from the ball park that day. She didn’t want them to make a scene and stop her from walking home from the softball games. Parents were always overreacting and hers were the worst. It made her wish she was not an only child. Maybe if she had brothers and sisters her parents wouldn’t be so overprotective.

By Thursday, Shannon had forgotten about the footsteps following her. Her game as in full swing when suddenly she felt someone staring at her; it was then that the memory flooded back. She glanced up from her second base position to see a man watching her closely. He was leaning against the fence behind first base and he smiled when she looked at him. He didn’t look scary and she quickly dismissed the fear she had felt.

After the game, he sat on a bleacher while she talked to the coach. She noticed his smile once again as she walked passed him. He nodded and she smiled back. He noticed her name on the back of her shirt. He knew he had found her. Quietly, he walked a safe distance behind. It was only a few blocks to Shannon’s home and once he saw where she lived he quickly returned to the park to get his car. He decided to get a bite to eat until the time came to go to Shannon’s house.

He drove to a fast good restaurant and sat there until it was time to make his move.

Shannon was in her room later that evening when she heard voices in the living room.

‘Shannon, come here,’ her father called. He sounded upset and she couldn’t imagine why. She went into the room and saw the man from the ballpark sitting on the sofa. ‘Sit down,’ her father began, ‘this man has just told us a most interesting story about you.’

Shannon sat back. How could he tell her parents anything? She had never seen him before today.

‘Do you know who I am, Shannon?’ the man asked.

‘No,’ replied Shannon.

‘I am a police officer and your online friend, GoTo123.’

Shannon was stunned. ‘That’s impossible, GoTo is a kid my age. He’s 14 and he lives in Michigan.’

The man smiled. ‘I know I told you all that but it wasn’t true. You see, Shannon, there are people on line who pretend to be kids; I was one of them. But while others do it to find kids and hurt them, I belong to a group of parents who do it to protect kids from predators. I came here to find you, to tell you how dangerous it is to give out too much information to people on line. You told me enough about yourself to make it easy for me to find you. Your name, the school you went to, the name of your ball team, and the position you played. The number and name on your jersey just made finding you a breeze.’

Shannon was stunned. ‘You mean you don’t live in Michigan?’

He laughed. No, I live in Raleigh. It made you feel safe to think I was so far away, didn’t it?’

She nodded.

‘I had a friend whose daughter was like you. Only she wasn’t as lucky. The guy found her and murdered her while she was home alone. Kids are taught not to tell anyone when they are alone, yet they do it all the time on line. The wrong people trick you into giving out information, a little here and there. Before you know it, you’ve told them enough for them to find you without even realizing you’ve done it. I hope you’ve learned a lesson from this and won’t do it again. ‘Tell others about it so they will be safe too.

‘It’s a promise,’ Shannon said.
NOTES
The above is a copy of a warning circulated on AOL message boards in January 2002. It was written by a guy called Chris who felt great concern for the kids who innocently told all when they were on line. He wrote:

‘This tale may be an Urban Myth but the warning is valid. Myth or not, AOL (and other service providers) should consider adding a link to such a warning on its profile and message board links. I think we’ve all at some time received IMs from quite young users. It’s often easy to tell even from the opening words. I (Chris) always make a point of telling them my age and advise them about the possible risks of contacting anyone online. The same applies to even older users.’
With the amount of ‘grooming’ that goes on these days you can see that the message contained in this ‘myth’ still applies.

11 comments:

Pat said...

Wow. Very chilling. I hate to believe that there are scum out there waiting to swoop down on innocent kids. This was very interesting.

Brian Miller said...

whew...scary world in which we live...if only all stalkers were just trying to make a point...

Bernie said...

Oh Val, my heart was beating as I thought he was going to do something bad to her and then got to the ending.....what a good lesson, not only for young people but for us seniors as well.
Have a great weekend....:-)Hugs

Ron said...

EXCELLENT share, Valerie!

OMG, I had chills at the end of this story. I think it's great that Chris shared this because he's right...

"This tale may be an Urban Myth but the warning is valid."

And really, it applies to ALL of us.

Thank you for sharing this, dear lady.

Hope you're enjoying a wonderful weekend!

Mr. Shife said...

Scary, scary stuff. Really has me worried since my little dude will be online in a few years. I know he will be raised right but there are some whack jobs out there and that is what worries me. Thanks for sharing Val.

A man called Valance said...

Hello Val, I stopped reading before the end. It's message can't be repeated often enough, but it makes my skin crawl.

Valerie said...

Pat, unfortunately we live in the real world where predators seem to increase daily.

Brian, I agree.... 'if only'

Bernie, I get scared for our kids whenever I hear that one is missing after 'talking to someone on the Internet'

Ron, you're right, it affects all of us ... if adults can't teach our kids properly there's not much hope for them!

Shifey, I put a comment on your blog. Don't worry about your little one, you and Mrs Shife will do the right thing by him.

AMC Valance, I hope you got to the part where everything was 'all right' ... in this case. I thought I would link to the post a few more times... it's worth passing on, I think.

Akelamalu said...

Urban myth or not it's very chilling that people can find out so much about children online.

Houston A.W. Knight said...

THIS IS AN AWESOME BLOG!

But you know...this should also be taken serious by adults as well!

I've tried to explain this to someone I held dear and she just didn't get it.

Being an open book on line or in person these days is a NO NO...you don't know who they are.

There is something to be said for being a VERY PRIVATE PERSON!

Great Job Sweetie! Awesome post!

Hugs
Hawk

Valerie said...

Hawk, I agree with you. Too much is often revealed on blogs etc. For example, I received an email today - well it was a direct message from Twitter - and it came to an address that is NOT revealed on there. Makes you wonder, huh?

Akelamalu, like Hawk says, even adults should take note.

septembermom said...

Very scary. I try to be very vigilant with my teen son about his online presence. I think too much is "out there" on everyone these days. Thanks for the important reminder Val.

Your blog looks so pretty!!!