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POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 105 it had gone on for a year and a half before being discovered by the girl’s mother. As you read the details, think about what could have been done to discover the situation earlier and how you can use these precautions to protect your children. Paul Brown, Jr., an Ohio resident, was forty-six years old. He was also unemployed, weighed over four hundred pounds, and lived in a basement. He had accounts with several ISPs. Mary (a hypothetical name for the young girl involved) was twelve when her mother, a schoolteacher, bought her a computer, reportedly because Mary was having problems making friends. When she got online, Mary posted a message on an online service, in the spring of 1995, looking for a pen pal. In her message she described herself as a teenage girl. Paul Brown, Jr,. responded to the message, using his real name (something they often do, surprisingly) but identifying himself as a fifteen-year-old boy. Brown and Mary maintained an e-mail and telephone relationship for several months. As the relationship became more involved, they began writing letters, and Mary sent Brown a photograph. He told her that he was living at home with his mother and was hoping to find a girlfriend. In early August, Brown asked Mary for a “favor.” “If I sent you a roll of film, could you get one of your friends to take pictures of you in different outfits and maybe hairstyles? Makeup if you use any, and different poses. Some sexy, if possible. Please. Baby for me. Thanx. You’re the best. Love Ya.” Mary complied. For the next eight months, they continued to converse and correspond, and Mary sent additional photos. Brown encouraged her with juvenile antics, such as using stickers in his letters to her saying things like “Getting better all the time!” In May 1996, Brown sent Mary a special love note. “Saying I love you... seems to be an understatement. At the age of 14 you have captured my heart and made it sing... I love everything about you….” Shortly thereafter, Brown confessed to being in his twenties. He also suggested that Mary videotape herself in sexually provocative poses. She did. After Brown had reviewed her videotape, he returned it to her with instructions to redo the tape and include views of her genitalia and breasts. He later admitted to being divorced and in his thirties. He reportedly also sent her small gifts from time to time. A few months later, in response to Brown’s promise to pass copies of the tape to four members of a rock band Mary admired, she sent additional videotapes to Brown. (Brown told Mary that he knew the band members very well.) Each tape sent to Brown was designated for a different member of the band and contained sexually explicit conduct. Brown apparently had also sent her his size 48 underwear. When her mother discovered the underwear, the authorities were notified. Tracing Brown through phone records, special agents of the FBI in Cleveland seized the videotapes and photos of Mary and of more than ten other teenage girls from across the country. Mary was fourteen when this was all discovered. Brown pled guilty to enticing a minor to produce sexually explicit photos and videos and was sentenced to a little less than five years in prison (the maximum penalty for a first offense). In a written statement to Brown following all of this, Mary said, “I trusted you. I thought you were my friend.” There are several things that stand out in this case. One, interstate phone calls were made by Mary. Parents should always be reviewing long-distance bills for suspicious calls. Two, Mary was lonely. These kinds of children are often the most vulnerable; a parent should be involved in their online friendships, and monitor their online lives. And, three, as hard as it is to know what our kids are doing when we’re not around, especially if we are a single parent, a year and a half is a long time for a relationship to be going on undiscovered. We should spend time learning who our children’s friends are, online and off. Knowing a child is lonely and has problems making friends is the first sign that the child may fall prey to a pedophile or cyber- predator. Predators can spot lonely children. They can also spot kids who are new online and may not yet know all the rules. Broken homes and homes where the child feels leftout are often the place where a predator can easily find an online victim. Most teens, when surveyed, admit to having been propositioned online. But what may be obvious to a cyberstreetsmart kid may not be so obvious to a child not yet familiar with cyberspace. Pedophiles befriend these kids and patiently build trust and a relationship— looking toward the day when they can meet face-to-face. Encourage children to make online friends, but learning about their online friends is an important way to avoid these secret relationships. Education is important in avoiding this danger, too. (Had Mary been forewarned about how pedophiles operate online, she may have been more attentive to how old Brown sounded on the phone, and been more aware of his classic tactics.) So is control over incoming and outgoing information when younger children are involved, using technology blockers, monitors, and filters. These kinds of situations can be avoided if we plan ahead, educate and communicate with our children, and keep our eyes open. Teaching our teens and preteens that that cute 14-year-old boy may not be cute...may not be 14...and may not be a boy can help too. Check out our new print public service announcements at WiredSafety.org. Feel free to use them and make as many copies as you'd like. (...cont’d)

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