smart rules smart

M: MEETING... why?

A thirteen-year-old-girl met a ‘friend’ in an Internet chatroom who said he was ‘fifteen’. Chatting on the Internet moved on to text-messaging and then mobile phone calls, and the young girl declared that she was ‘in love’ with this ‘boy’. In the course of their conversations he admitted that he was ‘27’. Luckily, the parents found out a meeting was being planned and contacted the police, and the police continued the messaging to the point of the meeting. The police were lying in wait for him when he turned up to meet the girl. He was thirty-eight years-old, and he had a palm-sized computer with him that had lists of young children aged between six and sixteen, with their contact details, in addition to lists of numerous child sex websites. This man was released without charge.

It can be difficult to remember that someone is a stranger if you have been chatting to them for ages, and they feel like a good friend, even your best friend. Sometimes you might know they are a stranger but because you feel safe on the computer at home, you carry on chatting and telling them intimate things – well what's the worst that could happen? Although there are lots of stories about how people have met up with and made real friends through the Internet after chatting online, there are also many stories of people who have been tricked, manipulated and abused as a result of agreeing to meet people. It is important to remember that people may not be who they say they are and both young people and adults can be fooled into meeting someone who they might not wish to meet. Too many young people have been seriously hurt and abused by their ‘online friends’ when they have met.