With all the worries of on-line grooming I thought it appropriate to post this again. It was first posted in July 2010 but internet grooming has grown into an even larger problem so here it is again.
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.
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!
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
Jan 3 1985: 13
State where she lived:
Hobbies: softball, chorus, skating, going to the Mall.
Besides this information, he knew she lived in
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
Junior High School
She had told him all this in conversations they had on line.
He had enough information to find her now.
Shannon had forgotten about the footsteps following her.
Her game was 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
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 food restaurant and sat there until it was time to make his move.
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.’
‘Do you know who I am,
Shannon?’ the man asked.
‘I am a police officer and your online friend, GoTo123.’
The man smiled. ‘I know I told you all that but it wasn’t true. You see,
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.’
He laughed. No, I live in
made you feel safe to think I was so far away, didn’t it?’
‘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,’
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.