I’ve blogged before about the phenomenon of kids and online predators, and I’ve had mixed feelings on the subject. I have none, however, about news of a teenager and her mom suing MySpace.com for $30 million because the girl met a predator online who later sexually assaulted her.
A 14-year-old Travis County girl who said she was sexually assaulted by a Buda man she met on MySpace.com sued the popular social networking site Monday for $30 million, claiming that it fails to protect minors from adult sexual predators.
The lawsuit claims that the Web site does not require users to verify their age and calls the security measures aimed at preventing strangers from contacting users younger than 16 “utterly ineffective.”
“MySpace is more concerned about making money than protecting children online,” said Adam Loewy, who is representing the girl and her mother in the lawsuit against MySpace, parent company News Corp. and Pete Solis, the 19-year-old accused of sexually assaulting the girl.
…Solis contacted the girl through her MySpace Web site in April, telling her that he was a high school senior who played on the football team, according to the lawsuit.
In May, after a series of e-mails and phone calls, he picked her up at school, took her out to eat and to a movie, then drove her to an apartment complex parking lot in South Austin, where he sexually assaulted her, police said. He was arrested May 19.
Now, don’t get me wrong. In now way and under no circumstances do I think this young woman deserved to be sexually assaulted nor do I think that she “had it coming.” What was done to her was wrong, indefensible, and I think the alleged to have assaulted her should receive an appropriate sentence if he’s found guilty.
That said, there’s a part of me that thinks a lawsuit in this case may be a good idea, but the parties (pardon me if I don’t know the right legal terms here) should be reversed, or different. altogether. Based on what few details have been reported, either this teenager should be suing her parents, or MySpace should be suing her parents.
There are about 100 things that parents can do to at least try to prevent something like this says , but I haven’t heard yet how many (if any)of them these parents tried. A couple of them are simple. You can take the computer and phone out of the kids room, for example, and put them in the public areas of the house.
You can even track your kid via cellphone. Yup. Sprint and Verizon both have GPS locator services aimed at parents. The Verizon program, though, has a rather limited phone for the kids, and one which the average teen probably wouldn’t be caught dead using. Still, if you’d at least know where your kid was, and if she’s somewhere other than on her way home from school.
You can learn as much about technology as your kids. It might be a funny joke to say that your kid knows more about technology than you do, but it’s not a joke you can afford to make. If you don’t know how to use a spam filter, or don’t even know the first thing about email, you’ve got a lot to learn. And fast, considering your kid is already light years ahead of you. There are programs that can help you at least keep track of your kid’s online activity at home, but you have to know that you need them in the first place, before knowing where to find them.
Most of all, you can talk to your kid and maybe teach them some common sense about the dangers of meeting strangers online and then meeting them in person. You can establish a relationship in which your teenager is comfortable talking to you about sexual matters that they might otherwise take up with strangers online.
Sure. you can’t watch your kids all the time. And you can’t monitor their online activity all the time either, given ubiquitous nature of wifi these days. But there’s a lot you can do to reduce the odds that your kid might wind up in a situation like this. I don’t know if these parents did anything that might have prevented the crime done to their daughter. But if I were MySpace, I’d find out how much they did, and I’d be talking to my lawyer about that.