POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 99 and thrill seekers looking to let off steam or impress their peers) and those who don't realize that what they do online is real, the ones who are looking to appear older, cooler, more fun and more popular (most of the teens and especially preteens fall into this category at least once). Sadly, most of our preteens and teens fit one of these categories. Sadder still is the fact that in recent years we have learned that most preteens and teens are potential victims. Naive, loners and socially-shy preteens and teens: Some believe that they are communicating with a cute 14 year old boy, who they later discover isn't cute, isn't fourteen and isn't a boy. Most of the reported cases fall into this category, and until the death of Christina Long in the US five years ago this May (She was the first confirmed death by a cyber-predator in the US), experts all believed that all victims fell into this category. Our kids are being conned, and easy to spot online. Predators can seek them out, and find their vulnerabilities. They are groomed with care, and often fall in love with their molesters. Sadly, when the molestation finally occurs, not only are their bodies broken, their hearts and trust are too. They need to understand how the predators work online. Too often they tell me that they can "tell" how old someone is online. They can't. No one can. Many predators spend years cultivating the right tone and language to look like a fellow teen online. These preteens and teens are sitting ducks. While they may have learned not to fall for the "help me find my puppy" ploy offline, they need to learn how that same ploy (appeal for assistance) works online. They need to know how to spot the risks and the predators, when online everyone can look like a cute 14-year-old boy. They need to learn that romance shouldn't occur only in cyberspace, and that parents can get involved to help them meet their soul-mate, assuming they really are. So, if they aren't, and turn out to be a 46 year old child molester, they can come home safely and help put that molester behind bars where they deserve. Risk-takers, Thrill-seeking preteens and teens: Some preteens and teens (mainly teens) are looking for the thrills and challenge of engaging in a relationship (or at least prolonged communication) with an adult. They "play games" with the adult, and are intentionally extra sexually-provocative. They think they are smart enough to do this without getting hurt. They see this as a game, without realizing the consequences of their actions. And crossing the sexual line isn't as frightening online as it would be in real life. The problem is that the consequences are not as apparent, the realities not as immediate. They take risks. And they think they can handle them. (They don't often understand the consequences, though.) They often willingly engage in sexual communications with men they know are adults. That's part of the thrill. They are also often willing to engage in sexual activities with the adult, but don't realize what that can mean when things go very wrong. We rarely hear about these kinds of victims, because they never report it when things go wrong. They feel as though they "asked for it," or are to blame. When we hear of these cases, it's because they are killed or kidnapped. (Christina Long was in this category. She was the first confirmed murder victim of an Internet sexual predator in the U.S. and died four years ago this May.) Friends are the answer here. If we can get friends to help watch out for each other, it is less likely that they will meet adults in real life, or if they do, got alone. Also, finding cool campaigns such as our "Don't Be Stupid" help. So do real life stories from victims themselves about how they got caught and advice from the trenches. has sections specifically directed at this type of victim. Not really a drunken slut, just playing one on MySpace: We've all been reading about this new trend in the news (often with me as the expert). Good, respectful, otherwise well-mannered preteens and teens acting out in cyberspace. In profiles, blogs, on social networking sites (such as MySpace) and their away messages on IM, on their websites and interactive gaming bios, they act out. They pose in their bras, or worse. They simulate sexual activities (and in some cases post images of actual sexual activities). They pretend to be someone or something other than what they really are. And this alter-ego may be a sexually promiscuous teen "up for anything." They don't think it is cool to tell others they were home coloring with their five year old niece last weekend. Instead they claim to have snuck out after everyone was asleep to get drunk at a wild party. To them it isn't real. They lie. They pose. They do thing online they would never dream of doing in RL. They aren't really drunken sluts - they are just playing one on MySpace to get attention. The Anatomy of a Cyberpredator: There have been many cases recently where pedophiles and other adults have lured children into offline meetings and molested them. Luckily, there are even more cases when such attempts to lure a child have brought about the attention of law-enforcement groups. Cyberpredators, just like their offline counterparts, usually aren’t the scary, hairy monsters in trench coats we imagine standing on a dark street corner. Many are the kind of person you would be inviting to your home as a guest, and often have. They are pediatricians, teachers, lawyers, clergy, vice cops, welfare workers, journalists, Boy Scout leaders, baseball coaches, scientists, etc. They are almost always men. (Sometimes women are accomplices, but rarely are women the molesters.) They are often articulate and well-educated. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and they can be very rich or out of work. But they have one thing in common: they want your child. (...cont’d) (cont’d...)