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Teenangels / Scrapbook / Articles / A Victim Among Us? By Teenangel Lisa

A Victim Among Us? By Teenangel Lisa

Are you white? Do you do well in school? Are you average looking? Young? Do you talk on the Internet? Are you asking yourself about now what's the point of these questions? Are you thinking that these characteristics could describe just about anyone? Precisely the point.

This "anyone" is the face of the victims of Internet harassment and, believe it or not, you, your child, or someone you know is probably at risk. Though the issue has been given a fair amount of attention by the media, it remains unaddressed by most schools and parents and looms as a grave and growing problem which has resulted in numerous abductions and murders of very normal, and generally responsible people; mainly young, white girls.

Meet Katherine Tarbox. A smart, articulate white 13 year old girl from the wealthiest town in Connecticut , Katie used the Internet, like so many teens, as a way to meet people. The 23 year old man she thought she fell in love during six months of Internet correspondence turned out to be quite different when they met in person; 41 years old, a stalker, and very dangerous. Katie escaped with her life and successfully prosecuted her predator, but others were not nearly as lucky.

So why aren't people more worried? Why have these girls died without much public notice? Why aren't young women scared to use chartrooms and why aren't parents monitoring what their kids do on the Internet? The problem has several levels.

It is always easiest to assign blame away from oneself. Most parents and teens can honestly say that they were never made aware of Internet harassment. Or perhaps they knew it existed, but were unclear about its extent or had no real concept of the magnitude of the dangers and the horrors it results in. Most people can justifiably, and probably would, claim ignorance if asked why they took no action to prevent, discuss, or even recognize dangers presented by the Internet.

But the problem does not stop here and cannot be restricted to poor information flow. Rather, the second level of the problem is far more complicated and psychological in nature. It is a rather common phenomenon that people, even when aware of a danger generally refuse to believe that they, personally, are at risk. A common need to make sense of a senseless act often leads people to try to estrange and differentiate the victim from themselves, sometimes by making note of physical distinctions and other times by looking to fault some aspect of the victim's behavior for somehow enticing the assailant.

This pattern is extremely dangerous and very relevant to Internet harassment. White, intelligent, suburban, teenagers and their parents persistently and illogically refuse to believe that they are in serious danger of harassment. How could a child from the upper echelons of society be a victim? How could a smart, responsible teenager fall prey to some faceless harasser on the Internet? While these thoughts are, perhaps, rational in certain respects, parents and their children must realize, for their own safety, that the victims of cyber crimes are people just like themselves. Just look at Katie.

Teenagers continue to use chat rooms and instant messaging to meet strangers online, and sometimes later in person, because they honestly do not believe they are in danger. Parents continue to be oblivious to what their children do on the Internet. And happy, smart white suburban girls keep getting killed.

The Internet provides incalculable benefits in the fields of technology and communication. Still, it presents certain very real and tangible risks that people need to keep in mind. Anything that one would not tell a stranger should not be communicated online. People should distrust all information that is given by people met over the Internet and should never give out their addresses, phone numbers, pictures, or secrets. Of course, most of this advice is common sense. And all people would probably follow these simple guidelines if they truly believed themselves to be at risk. It is important to keep in mind the horror that cyber crimes have resulted in and the profile of the average victim; a white, smart, suburban girl, in order to remember that you, or someone you know, really could be next.

Teenangel Lisa

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