The exploitation of children through the Internet is an increasing concern worldwide. In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is part of a major effort supported by the government, schools, parents and companies to do something about it.
Last week, parents in the United States received another reminder of the dangers of the Internet.
Sixteen-year-old Katherine Lester told her parents she needed a passport for a trip to Canada with friends; she actually flew to the Middle East to meet a man described as a 25-year-old from Jericho, on the West Bank. She apparently had been corresponding with him on a web site for three months, says Dan Roberts of the FBI. "She had met someone that she really seemed to care for quite a bit and wanted to go meet," he said.
The FBI quickly discovered where she was, met her in Jordan and convinced her to return to the United States. The FBI says this is not an isolated case. "We believe that there are millions and millions of juveniles working on the Internet every day, and parents have to know what their kids are doing," Roberts said.
Katherine met the man on a web site called MySpace.com. MySpace is currently among the world's most popular English language sites. The people at MySpace say the site has direct links to Internet safety tips. Federal, state, and local leaders warn parents that they need to teach young people how to be safe and smart online.
Web Wise Kids is a company and Internet site that uses simulation games to teach Internet safety.
Katie Canton was 15 years old when an online predator, known to the FBI, convinced her they were in love. She said, "By the third day we were boyfriend and girlfriend. By the fourth day he loved me, and he was ready to do anything."
Her parents had her play a game called ?Missing' produced by Web Wise Kids, and it convinced her to end the relationship. Canton said, "He was wanted by the FBI because he had an ongoing sexual relationship with a 13-year-old in West Virginia."
With millions of children using the Internet, school systems in the United States are considering their roles in teaching Internet safety. Some school systems are using Web Wise Kids, and its game, to teach students to navigate the web safely.