Quite often the media will work up a good scare about the evils of the Internet. Millions of evil-doers are supposedly lurking in the wires, waiting to reach through your monitor and grab your child.
It is true that there have been a number of child abductions since 1995 that began with an approach in a chat room. But it is also true that that number is fairly small. There have also been a similar small number of adults who've met with foul play when trying to meet their email pal in person. Of course, a much greater number have found wonderful mates through the Internet (including one friend who reads this regularly, and one of my brothers).
What this says is that we should all use caution online, but don't need to live in fear. Monitor your child's use of chat rooms, but don't raise them to fear technology. If you ever choose to set up a meeting with somebody you met online, do it in a public spot and never give your home address, and don't let your children meet strangers from chat rooms.
Even so, the media will continue to have slow news days, and they'll fill those days with recycled horror stories to grab our attention and try to scare the Hell out of us. And they'll perpetuate the Evil Internet myth.
Okay, so, that said, I'm going to paste in a forwarded email that I hope you'll pay attention to. It's not a story of a child abducted through the Internet; it's a story about a father trying to use the power of the Internet to find his abducted child.
Sabrina went for a weekend visit with her non-custodial mother on April 19, 2002. She never returned, and the mother is also now missing. There is a federal arrest warrant out for the mother, who was also last seen on Friday, April 19, 2002. The mother is considered mentally unstable, and Sabrina may be in danger.
I've verified that this is not a hoax. For the fully story of Sabrina visit http://findsabrina.org/.
Please read the forwarded email and do what you can to help find Sabrina. Most importantly, of course, is to return a child to her rightful guardian. But also, wouldn't it be nice if the media had to report a positive story about the Internet for a change?
>> I need your help!
>> Sabrina Fair Allen
>> You can't imagine what it's like to have a little girl get abducted. And I
>> hope you never know the feeling. But if you have any compassion in your
>> heart, please help find this missing little girl. She disappeared a few
>> months ago and still hasn't been found. She's just 5 years old!
>> The Internet is huge and covers the whole world. If you pass this photo to
>> just 5 friends, and they each pass it on to 5 of their friends, maybe this
>> picture will reach someone who knows little Sabrina and can help find her.
>> Please, please help me find this little girl.
>> If you've seen her, please call (512)-424-2812 or 1-(800)-346-3243.
>> If you haven't seen her, please pass this message on to others
>> who might have information.
>> Sabrina's picture and case description are from the nonprofit National
>> Center for Missing & Exploited Children. We hope you help.