Communication has never been easier and more available to everyone. Social media is becoming a part of most of our daily lives. The more we use platforms like Twitter and Facebook, the more familiar and friendly it becomes for us and we can easily forget that these same platforms for communication can be used by people to hurt others, commit crimes and pray on friends and family that are putting it out there and trusting that others online are using it for the same positive purposes. A recent story out of Plainview, Texas confirms that social media and Facebook in this particular instance, can easily be used as a hunting ground for predators.
Here's how the story in Texas goes. A local thirteen year old teen found herself in a motel room in Plainview, where she thought she was going to meet another teenaged girl she had been conversing with on Facebook. Plainview Police Captain Manuel Balderas said, "I guess the person had sent her a friend request, she accepted it and she got to 'conversating' with the girl," according to KLBK, the CBS affiliate in Plainview.
The two teenagers became friends online as so many people do and agreed to meet in person. Since she was only thirteen, the girl had asked her sister to drive her to a local motel to meet the new friend. When a man answered the door and explained the girl she was supposed to meet was taking a shower it didn't seem to phase the young teenager and she went past the man and into the room. The man (now a suspect) grabbed the teenager, put tape over her mouth and tried to keep her from making any noise.
"She started screaming as loud as she could. He kept telling her to get quiet and asked if she was with anybody else and she said that her sister was outside waiting for her so I guess the guy got scared and let her go," said Police Captain Balderas. He also told KLBK the man had registered under a fake name at the motel but police were able to identify and question him. The suspect hasn't been arrested yet, but it is likely that he'll be charged with the online solicitation of a minor and unlawful restraint.
I doubt anyone is really all that surprised about a story like this one. It's a pretty common and sadly way too easily believable scenario for today's social media world. Our communication rich world is filled with all kinds of opportunities and possibilities including the possibility that predators can still use social networking tools and platforms to find victims. Most importantly, we all must be reminded of these dangers and aware when information is shared so openly with the public.
"Contrary to popular belief, most online predators are not pedophiles. Pedophiles target pre-pubescent children" —NCMEC
I hear they can track online predators by simply tracking their credit cards. I'm glad twitter is free.