Archive for Sunday, April 2, 2006

Scary Internet encounter puts mother on guard

Online predator had targeted Lawrence girl

April 2, 2006

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When Dominie Haas realized her 11-year-old daughter was being hounded by a sexual predator on the Internet, she sent the culprit a message of her own: She threatened to call the police.

Haas was chilled by the response.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you. I know where you live," the predator's message stated. "I know more than you think."

"My daughter, probably for a couple of weeks, had to sleep with me," the Lawrence woman said. "It terrified me, and it terrified her even more."

Haas was one of more than a dozen parents and teachers who last week attended a seminar at Pinckney School conducted by the Lawrence Police Department called Internet Training for Parents.

But Haas and her oldest daughter, Gabriel Ann Haas, already had firsthand experience in dealing with terror over the Internet.

Haas' daughter had an account on Neopets.com, a Web site where members obtain and care for virtual pets while building virtual stores. They can play games and send messages to friends.

At one point someone who had been an online friend through the site hijacked Haas' daughter's account and prevented her from using her password to gain access.

The culprit wanted Gabriel Ann to send pictures of herself.

"He had convinced her to get an AOL (America Online) account because you can't send pictures on Neopets," Haas said.

Gabriel Ann informed her mother what had happened. Haas got online herself and posed as her daughter before telling the predator she was going to call the police. She also contacted the Web site administrator, the school and her daughter's friends. A check of the user name the culprit was using showed that it had been in use for two years and that there had been no complaints about it. Haas wonders whether that name had been stolen just as her daughter's was.

A police officer told Haas to shut down access to the Web site and to call the Web administrator, she said.

Haas' daughter had not given out her address or hometown over the Internet. But she had listed her ZIP code.

Now mother and daughter see to it that no personal information is given out online.

"It was a violation in more ways than I can describe," Haas said of the incident. "You are in so much shock and so much disbelief. It's not something I'm used to dealing with."

At the same time, Haas said she doesn't want her daughter to avoid using the Internet.

"I want her to know that there are steps she can take to keep herself safe and not have to avoid the world," Haas said.






Children and the Internet

Among children between the ages 10 and 17 using the Internet: ¢ The U.S. Department of Justice estimates 77 million children were active on the Internet as of June 2005. ¢ One in four had an unwanted exposure to sexually explicit pictures. ¢ About one in five received a sexual solicitation. ¢ One in 17 was threatened or harassed. ¢ One in 33 received an aggressive sexual solicitation.

Comments

Ragingbear 9 years, 5 months ago

Ok people! All you Conservatives, all you Liberals, all you people who complain about everything no matter what. I got a message for you. The TV is not a babysitter, the Internet is not a babysitter, and you need to stop acting like it is such. The generation raised by TV sets were bad enough, but with all that is accessable on the net, one can only tremble in fear at what type of person will result in being raised by the Internet instead of an actual person.

You know, the type of people we will get? The type who get this call "Hi, Adolf Hitler here, Jeffry Dalhmer and I were talking with Hannibal. We want you to stay away from us you freak.".

Nikki May 9 years, 5 months ago

My child had a computer in her room. However, now that there is internet on her computer, it's in the living room. I want to be able to see what's going on at all times. We talk about what's ok to post and what isn't.

But ultimately, the whole thing is about supervision. Oh and derf, lots of people have no qualms about dropping their kids off down town. Have you ever seen dad's place? Kids everywhere. The first time I noticed it was when I was leaving a concert around midnight and there were kids all over Mass. No adults.

enochville 9 years, 5 months ago

One take home message is that so called "kid sites" like Neopets, etc., have pedophiles on them. Any site that allows communication between users carries with it the danger of interacting with predators. I know of families that allow there kids only to chat or play interactive games with kids they know in real life. I think that is reasonable.

I also agree that any computer with internet access should be in a family room. Knowing that a family member might walk by at anytime helps keep us from doing things we might be ashamed of.

Here is a topic of discussion: when and how do you begin to extend to your child internet privacy (email, chatting, etc)? I am sure people will have different opinions on this. One thing I am sure about is any information that my child (no matter what age) places in a space where anyone including strangers can view it, is not private from me (this includes online journals, personals, etc). Because, after all, there may be some predator viewing it.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 9 years, 5 months ago

There are too many parents who didn't grow up with the web/computers who know that they are ignorant about the web, but still let their kids surf the web freely. Parents need to take classes and become informed rather than just say "I dont' know much about it" and then assume all is well. They don't know what can/cannot be done on-line, they don't know who is out there... I think some people think the whole thing is regulated by the FCC or something, as if having a web site means you are licensed or something. They don't know what it's about, and they are happy to remain ignorant.

If your daughter spent 5 hours a day with a boy who's name or age you didn't know, would that make you uncomfortable? They don't realize that the web is like that: if your kid is on line a lot, know what they are doing there, and who they are doing it with. They web is a "place", just like a bar or an arcade is a "place".

The web is the new babysitter, but it's far less predictable and less safe than TV. Cell phones are getting nearly as bad, and may be the next babysitter.

Snoop 9 years, 5 months ago

I agree the way the story is written is all jacked up........ "He had convinced her to get an AOL (America Online) account because you can't send pictures on Neopets," Just how does the bad man convince her to get an AOL account? The fact that this type story still makes the paper and national news on a fairly regular basis is amazing. Parents obviously still are not paying enough attention, but more importantly kids today just have amazing lack of common sense. How the heck are parents suppose to combat that?

Ceallach 9 years, 5 months ago

Rage on bull!! You are so right!!

enoch, you have the right idea, hold tight to those thoughts as your children grow up. Unsupervised children pay a price much higher than the cost of a sitter or a parent being at home. It isn't just because of internet perverts, they are also more likely to be victims of undesirable peer pressure and local predators.

Sheesh . . . . .Do you really think it is a good idea to provide internet photos of the little girl AND her bedroom when she has already been stalked on the internet? YDP need to think about such things!!!

Richard Heckler 9 years, 5 months ago

punkrockmom good move. We recently did the same thing. When our child is doing educational games or projects on the internet in a totally different room for whatever reason it seemed like she was miles away. It's not the same feeling as playing with dolls or reading books in her room.

Parents can also implement a block.

mom_of_three 9 years, 5 months ago

I think you are missing the point of the story. The story is to warn other parents who believe Neopets and other kids sites are safe. You are making judgements about the parent by speculating how much time the kids spend on-line by where the computer is located. This parent could be looking over her kids' shoulder the entire time is not going to keep a predator from stealing her ID and communicating. The point is the kids told their mom what was happening. It doesn't appear the kids were hiding anything from their mom, and the mom went into protection mode.
My computer is in the living room, so I see what sites my children are on. But that isn't going to keep a predator from being on-line and communicating.

audvisartist 9 years, 5 months ago

While I agree that children should be supervised while they are online, here's one way parents can track down pervs their child may encounter...

1) Create a bogus website using any of the hundreds (if not thousands) of free website providers... ie. GeoCities, FortuneCity, 50megs.com, etc. This website will supposedly contain pictures of the child, personal information, whatever the perv wants. (Of course don't use any real information...but this should be a given.)

2) Make sure that the index file of the website has some sort of IP address tracking code on it. Most software used to track website visitors will also track IP addresses. A quick look at scriptsearch.com will turn up lots of these programs (many of them free) in the Web Traffic Analysis section. This software will keep a log file of who visits the website and when.

3) Once the bogus site is up and running, and the web traffic script is working, send any pervs to the site telling them there are all kinds of pictures, info., what have you. Mark down the time you send them to the site in order to compare it to the log file created by the web traffic analysis software (some pervs may not have a dedicated connection that keeps the same IP address all the time, and so a time to go along with say a dialup IP address would be important.) This log file will contain the perv's IP address (which in effect will give the proper authorities a good idea where this person is located.) Don't give the address to this website to anyone else but people that are harassing your child in order to keep the log file as "pure" as possible with data that is relevant only to those that are doing the harassing.

4) Give the log file to the proper authorities and they should have people capable of deciphering the IP address, getting the name of the ISP the perv is using, and eventually being able to locate the person doing the harassing by working with the ISP. (I'm not sure exactly what constitutes a crime as far as harassing and online sexual predators go, but if you feel your child is being harassed or stalked, I'm sure the cops wouldn't mind you coming to them with this type of information.)

While there are ways for pervs to use "cloaking" methods to keep their IP address private, you'll find that many people just don't know about these methods and figure they're anonymous enough being behind a computer monitor. Of course if someone is using a computer at a college or library computer lab, or a place like an Internet cafe, then this process of catching the "bad guy" may not work all that well. But it may give the proper authorities enough information to get some leads as to who is harassing your child.

Luxor 9 years, 5 months ago

Way to go, mom, put the kid's picture on the front page of the paper and the internet!

Ceallach 9 years, 5 months ago

mom_of_three, I don't think the posters are trying to judge, to me it seems they are pointing out the difference between the way you and I would view this article and the way predators view it. Unfortunately, there are predators reading the article, not maybe, absolutely.

You and I would view this as something all parents should pursue -- learning about computer capabilities and setting up proper barriers and restrictions to protect their children. On the other hand, the predators see a lovely child and are computer saavy enough to download pictures of both her and her bedroom. We can't afford to only view this world from our perspective, the price to our children would be too great.

Nikki May 9 years, 5 months ago

mom_of_three, actually I wasn'tjudging, but stating that there are ways to HELP protect the child. If the child can download freely, then there were no safeguards. Also, kids need to know just as adults do the risks of giving out passwords and making your password not easy. I mean, lots of kids use their names. Also, if the article means an aol account, you need a credit card. If they erroneously were talking about an AIM (aol instant messenger - different than aol), then at least we know that there is no credit card issues.

snoozey 9 years, 5 months ago

Hmmmm..It's tough having kids w internet access but it is a fact of life that they do, if not at home then it can readily be found elsewhere. We have talked about this many times w our kids and they fully understand the dangers, just like they know not to take rides from strangers, etc. It is an unfortunate irony that the kid's pic ended up online in a newspaper story. This is not a problem w a simple solution but discussing it w your children can be an effective preventative measure. I wish the family the best of luck with discovering his identity and prosecuting this creep.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 years, 5 months ago

It never ceases to amaze me, that here, in the fifth year of the new century, there are still people who are incredibly ignorant of the internet. It is an unregulated wild-west arena that must be treated with utmost caution, both for adult users and especially childern. I still marvel at the number of clueless persons I encounter ("I don't know no internet!" or "I don't got no computer thing") It is incumbant on every living person to be aware of modern living and the hazards (Don't play in the street" "Don't talk to strangers", "Don't live on junk food". etc)that are daily threats to living. This parent needs some "re-training" before ever letting that "computer-thing" into their house. Would you bring a full can of gasoline in your house and store it near the water heater? Some dummies would. Wake up!

fakerfinder 9 years, 5 months ago

Great job putting them on the front page of the paper. I have a concern that an 11 year old can pop out and get an aol account without mom. (how did that happen) From the related story, it sounds like the school is not much better than mom in finding out what the kids are doing. If it is all accurate, the school obviously has not complied with Children's Internet Protection Act. Perhaps the parents need to determine what type of internet activities the schools are allowing.

YourItalianPrincess 9 years, 5 months ago

Very scary for both the mom and her daughter. We have one comp here in the house and its in the living room.

My oldest chats with friends on AOL here from Lawrence that he attends high school with. He uses the internet more to purchase clothing ( ball caps, shirts, jerseys, etc ) and he doesn't chat in rooms at all.

My youngest son ( whose 8.5 years old ) uses the internet to play games that are either downloaded already, or at certain sites that I know he goes to. He does play Runescape which he can talk to other game players but I don't allow him to. Hes whines, gripes and complains, but I'm the mom and I said "NO ". There is one person who he talks to while playing the game. Its one of his little friends whom I used to watch when he was younger. We see him at the library playing all the time also. My son knows his game name so I feel its safe to talk to him.

If I catch my son chatting with other, hes busted and grounded from the internet until futher notice. Call me a tough mom, but I make the rules. If you don't like internet rules for your age then you can get offline. To many freaks out there lurking on those sites where kids can go. You see alot of movies like that on tv.

I do hope this mom will keep an eye on her daughter's internet time now. I realize the site was a kids site, but thats where the freaks hang out.

Snoop 9 years, 5 months ago

"The story is to warn other parents who believe Neopets and other kids sites are safe."

Mom-of-three, Just to recap earlier comments....

"The TV is not a babysitter, the Internet is not a babysitter,"

" The "internet" is like Downtown at night. Would you take your 11 year old down there and drop her off to fend for herself?"

The internet is not safe, assume ANY site that allows for chat particularly with kids is unsafe and a target for kids to get in trouble. Any kid who is trading photos and chatting with complete strangers are not playing with a full deck. Its just like people getting ripped off my e-mail scams, if people are still naive enough or just plain stupid enough to get taken by internet crap, well that stupidity carries over to their children.

And repeating what others said about naming the child and showing her picture, Jesus H. Christ LJW talk about missing the common sense boat on that one. That is in some ways the bigger story. That was incredible irresponsible.

compmd 9 years, 5 months ago

When I see people writing things like "ZOMG PONIES!!!!!!1!!!!1 I LiKe To PaRtY wIt Ma GuRlS aNd Go ShOpPn LOL!!!!!!!!11!" I think its understandable that some young people get targeted by predators. I think that this is very, very bad. Like kids take drivers ed in high school, maybe we should start having "Internet Ed". You can just as easily screw up your life when you sit down in a chair and start up a browser as you could when starting your car to go driving. Not to mention you could do significant financial damage to others by ignorant use of a computer, i.e. unwittingly become a node in a botnet. Identity theft and predator conversations don't "just happen." A combination of social engineering and a lack of understanding of the Internet contribute to these problems. By understanding that the average Internet user really has no idea what they are doing (BUT I BOUGHT NORTON FIREWAL I'M SAFE RIGHT LOL!) and helping to change that, we can make the Internet safer. It is not dangerous if you know what you are doing.

Why am I saying this? Because I know who is out there, what they use, and how they work. I deal with them every day, hoping to scare just one or two script kiddies, phishers, perverts, etc. into rethinking what they are doing. I'm nobody special; I'm just a guy with a laptop and a wifi card who gives a damn.

compmd 9 years, 5 months ago

Jannie, There are cases where local, county, and state law enforcement agencies use a suspect's Internet communications as a means to get them in a position where they can be charged under the state. In some places, this is used to arrest adults who proposition minors.

jayhawks71 9 years, 5 months ago

How do you know the names are not fictitious and the pictures, they might be fictitious as well...

And by the way, "AOL" and "AIM" are often used to refer to the messaging capabilities of AOL. She didn't need to subscribe to AOL, perhaps they were referring to AIM, which is free and allows files to be transferred.

You mean Norton Internet Firewall isn't going to protect me? But... but...

compmd 9 years, 5 months ago

jannie, you are correct; my intent was not to show otherwise. evidentiary rules and the actual crimes are different for the situation we are looking at, though. it comes down to what is easiest to prosecute.

Jon_Stewart 9 years, 5 months ago

With the increasing amount of this type of news lately, it seems that training courses for the parents aren't what we need, but instead we need courses for the children-- courses such as: "Xanga and You," "MySpace for Middleschoolers," and "Porn for Preschoolers."

Confrontation 9 years, 5 months ago

I love how the pics refer to this woman as a "concerned parent." She allows her very young daughter alone time on the internet. This woman should be called an "idiot parent." EVERYONE has heard stories of men having contact with young children on the web. Was this woman born yesterday? She shouldn't be able to claim ignorance, although she's obviously ignorant.

jayhawks71 9 years, 5 months ago

it is amazing what you can learn about people by putting their name into google. now that is scary!

mom_of_three 9 years, 5 months ago

Confrontation - You're calling her ignorant??

Hello pot, meet kettle!

mom_of_three 9 years, 5 months ago

There are predators everywhere. The state of Kansas allows registered sex offenders (even those convicted of crimes against children) to live across the street from schools. Neighbors don't have to be notified when a registered sex offender moves in.
**** Give the girl credit for telling her mother before it went too far.


Also, college students need to be aware of giving too much info on facebook. Some students post so much information, including class schedules, work schedules, pictures and party information.

Nachtwolf 9 years, 5 months ago

Remember, though, too much supervision can also be a bad thing. No teen or child wants to be watched all of the time. Now, I agree that some is fine, but as the child gets older, lighten it up. Start strong, but lighten up over time. That's the way to go. They'll learn the rules, and slowly show they know them.

Using the computers starts at younger and younger ages, these days. I didn't have the internet when I was little, and I'm 18. Now I see children as young as 4 using it! They must be watched, this is true. At that young an age, however, they won't listen very well to the rules, so it is best to watch until they are about 6, then start teaching them (but still watching).

kansanrose00 9 years, 5 months ago

Hi, I'm the person on the xanga site that they posted...kansanrose00...and I am extremely furious for the irresponsible journalism that just took place!!! I have NOTHING to do with this story at all! Obviously they just brought up a group page or something on there...and there is my site, my picture, my name!!! SO I would just like to clear my name and my site for having ABSOTULEY NOTHING to do with this story!!!! And for the person that posted my website address on here...you're not helping! My website is public for those to read and there is nothing bad on my site! So if you chose to read my site, that is fine with me! Just please know and understand that I have nothing to do with this story at all!!!! The LJWorld will be getting a not-so-nice call from me tomorrow! Thank you...Erin

musicman313 9 years, 5 months ago

oh yes, the purpose is to warn parents about the dangers on the internet

NEOPETS KILL!

Confrontation 9 years, 5 months ago

Mom_of_three-Yes, I'm calling her ignorant, and I'm calling you ignorant.

E_M-Since when does having a degree give someone common sense? This lady obviously doesn't have it.

badger 9 years, 5 months ago

When I was 11, I was allowed to do all sorts of things by myself. Stay at friends' houses and walk home the two miles from school and go to the library (my mom even signed off to let me get books out of the 'adults' section instead of the 'kids' section so I could read the murder mysteries I loved) and play in the woods.

You can't watch children all the time. What you can do is teach them things like, "Don't pick up snakes in the woods," or "Don't take rides from strangers," or "If you're in the library and someone won't leave you alone, go get the librarian and tell her." You can't keep kids off the Internet. Not only is it likely to be as good or better a research source than your local library, right in the living room, but one would have to be a great fool not to realize that it's a social community in and of itself. Kids need the skills to navigate that social community just as they need the skills to navigate the social community of the schoolroom, which means that if they're going to function in the 21st century, they need to be online and interacting with their peers - who are also already online.

What you can do is teach them to keep their passwords safe (which is equivalent to, "Keep your housekey in your backpack") and not to give out their personal information ("Don't tell strangers where you live or that your parents aren't home") and that they shouldn't give out pictures of themselves to strangers or agree to meet them somewhere ("Don't get into a stranger's car or help him find his lost dog"), and most of all, that no adult, online or off, should ever tell you to keep things secret from your parents.

Girl thought that someone was just hassling her. She tried to handle it alone. It got to be something beyond her ability to resolve, so she got her mom. Her mom threatened with the cops, and then she called them. It seems pretty reasonable to me.

Now, LJW's dumb decision to run the full names and pictures? Yeah, not so bright. He said he knew where she lived. There's a pretty good chance that was a bluff. I've had people online tell me, "I know where you live." I always tell them that I'll only be impressed if they can tell me what my address is, or even just what street I live on. They can't, because they're lying.

Now, however, he has any amount of information, from where they live and their names to where the mother works and anything else he can find out in a fifteen-second Internet search.

Dumb, LJW, really dumb. Remind me never to tell you about anyone threatening or stalking me.

wonderhorse 9 years, 5 months ago

When I was a teen, I used to get my friend (also a teen), and we hitchhiked. This was just for fun, we didn't want to get anywhere (we both had cars). Today, that would be an odds favorite as a death sentence, if we could get a ride.

concerned_mom 9 years, 4 months ago

I am apalled by the degree to which everyone seems to missing the point of the article. I understand the concerns and think there are many good suggestions, but it seems the internet has once again shown its dark side by allowing a forum for negativity and character bashing. This is not the first time I have noticed it.
Another problem facing children today is "interent bullies". The adults should not perpetuate this problem. Constructive criticism is fine, but don't be demonstarting such immature behavior to your children.

Linda Endicott 9 years, 4 months ago

Maybe kids should just be banned from using chat or IM, any kind of chat. Seems that this is where a lot of the problems start.

Is there any kind of program that will disable chat capabilities on your computer, yet allow you to go to the site? (like game sites)

BKfriend 9 years, 4 months ago

I realize that the intent of some of the people who post on these forums is to deliberately cause trouble and get people aggravated. As such, I typically ignore them and let them twist their little webs. However, it just occurred to me, when "concerned_mom" posted, that this behavior isn't harmless in the eyes of our children. What about the daughter? Did you stop to think how your words might affect her? Did you stop to think about the behavior you are modeling to other children? I happen to know this family. I also happen to know that the daughter felt a great sense of accomplishment and empowerment in coming forward. With regard to her mother, "Confrontation" has one very valid point: academic accomplishments have nothing to do with common sense. People can be book smart with out being worldly-wise. But something many people do not know is how much integrity, empathy, and fortitude this mother has had in the face of tremendous adversity to achieve everything that she has-- including being a remarkable and engaging mom. I have rarely seen a mother go to such great lengths to involve her children in every aspect of her life-- to expose them to so many opportunities. I know her to be a person who takes all suggestions and opinions seriously and admits openly to her own imperfections, as a mature person should. Differing opinions, suggestions, and criticisms make this world go around. They are important and valuable. But inaccurate assumptions and attacks serve no purpose other than to cultivate hate and prejudice. So assume and judge all you like. In the end, the truth bears witness. When something like this happens to a member of our community and they are brave enough to step up in hopes of helping others, we should do everything we can to support them, not to make unfounded assumptions and venomous attacks. That behavior serves no civic duty; it only models a blatant lack of respect and creates hostile environments that discourage others who might come forward to help their community. Don't cast stones. "Teach your children well."

samitche 9 years, 4 months ago

I am shocked at the negative response from all the self declared "perfect" parents on comment list. Why are you not supporting diligent parents and intelligent children in the community? This is not a situation where we should judge a parents actions. The only person to blame is the scumbag who was trying to contact this child.
Why do some of the people posting assume that if bad things happen it is only because the parent screwed up? This is the "it can't happen to me because I do this and this" attitude, that leads to exactly the problem this article is trying to prevent. The point of the article is that it can happen to anyone, no matter how diligent you are. Of course there are always more things you can do to protect your child as a parent, but where do you draw the line? When does diligence become instilling lack of trust and paranoia in a child? It's a delicate balance to be sure. None of us are perfect. It seems to me that this mother did all she knew at the time, without being overbearing, and then took brave action, empowering her children with her candor to speak publicly and not hide, and continuing to educate herself on internet safety. One last point - those of you how say the internet is the new babysitter are really missing something here. Our children know more about computers and are more adaptable to new technology than we can ever hope to be (unless you are a computer scientist or work for Bill Gates). It is perfectly natural and normal to allow your children to use the internet as a source of education and FUN! Assuming this mother is using the internet as babysitter is making a huge leap from the article's substance and the entire point of the message. Maybe you should look at yourselves a little closer and wonder why you automatically assumed this was the issue and felt the need to defend your own parenting styles so quickly. By the way, I really wonder about the motives of someone who would post a comment on this article with with the user name "OldEnuf2BYurDad". I would keep my children far, far away from this guy.

samitche 9 years, 4 months ago

Just to clarify, I did not have a problem with the comment from "OldEnuf2BYurDad" - but I could not let the irony of the username and the topic of this comment line pass without comment.

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