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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Net-enabled run-away

It's one of those nightmare stories: A girl runs away with a man she "meets" online. The 14-year-old was "discovered Saturday morning in a McLean [Va.] home, and the 22-year-old man who allegedly took her there is now on the run," the Washington Post reports. After having been sexually assaulted "without force," she is now safe, back in her grandparents' home in another Virginia town. The part that parents need to hear (and which bears out recent research) is that the police reported that she "was not abducted and was not held against her will for five days." We somehow think that telling our children "don't talk - or communicate online - with strangers" is good advice. The problem is, teenagers who do talk to people online, people who are in fact strangers, don't *think* of them as strangers. The research, published by the American Psychological Association, was done by the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center (see my 8/27/04 issue). For more insights from one of the study's authors, Janis Wolak, see my series, "Rethinking 'stranger danger' for teens."

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