Turns Out Social Networks Aren't Breeding Grounds For Sexual Predators

from the won't-stop-politician-grandstanding dept

Over the past few years there has been a huge number of grandstanding politicians claiming that social networks like Facebook and MySpace were breeding grounds for online predators, who were trying to entice children. They've been pushing for new laws, basically so they can get into the papers along with some quip about how they are out there protecting "the children." Of course, it turns out that the entire premise is faulty. A few years back we pointed to a study that showed the problem was entirely exaggerated. Very few kids were approached by predators and most who were could easily brush it off, so long as they had been educated about the risks. Now there's a new study out going even deeper in noting that sexual predators are unlikely to pretend to be teenagers using social networks, but rather are very upfront about who they are and what they want. In most cases, the victims knew that they were chatting with an older person, and believed that they were in a legitimate relationship, rather than being tricked. Once again, this suggests that all the hype and new laws being proposed to deal with the "problem" of predators on social networks are misplaced. The focus should be on basic education. Teach kids to have some "internet smarts" and they're probably going to be just fine.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Douglas Gresham, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 4:17am

    Not just "internet smarts" . . .

    I have a feeling that on TD I'm preaching to the choir on this one, but it annoys me when "the internet" is singled out when what we're talking about are life skills. Was nobody else told as a child not to talk to strangers without your parents? Does nobody else see that the same mantra is easily applied to the internet?

    The solutions to such issues are education, openness with your kids and actually checking up on what they're doing - exactly the same, in fact, as in the real world. I'm tired of the "internet boogeyman" being brought out any time there's an issue that has nothing to do with technology in particular, and everything to do with life and the world in general.

     

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  2.  
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    JustMatt, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 4:44am

    Nah - the Gen X parents had a meeting and decided

    they would rather be friends with their kids than parents. Parenting is like super hard, m'kay? Much easier to let the nanny state do all that messy stuff.

     

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  3.  
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    Gunnar, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 4:44am

    Surprise

    Wait... kids aren't semi-retarded helpless mindless creatures that need to be protected at all times from all threats, real or imagined?

    News to me.

     

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  4.  
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    dorpus, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 5:44am

    Does Techdirt ever say anything constructive?

    No, just that any effort to reign in sexual predators is "counterproductive", that free market forces are God, and it is all the victim's fault.

     

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  5.  
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    James, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 6:51am

    Safety Nazis

    The idiots who scream the loudest over this are the same ones howling at the moon over drinking and driving. Instead of focusing on the parts of the problem that are real they simply make blanket statements and cast the whole thing as evil. Get a clue.

     

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  6.  
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    Swede, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 6:53am

    Re: Does Techdirt ever say anything constructive?

    No - every effort to reign in sexual predators are not "counterproductive" - just the efforts that that are half-baked, misguided and grandstanding for a 5 second sound clip on the nightly news are.

     

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  7.  
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    DanC, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 7:10am

    "just that any effort to reign in sexual predators is 'counterproductive'"

    Any effort to reign in sexual predators that relies on hunches and gut feelings is misguided at best. Why would you support measures that will fail to accomplish their goals because the people who wrote the measures don't understand the problem?

    It's very similar to how some people "know" that violent video games lead to real life violence, even though all the studies show no link. Lack of evidence doesn't stop them from trying to put measures and laws in place. And in no surprise whatsoever, those measures fail to work.

    Passing laws to "protect the children" has become a crutch for politicians to pass laws that illegally infringe on free speech and the Supreme Court keeps throwing most of them out.

    "it is all the victim's fault."

    No, it's a weird exclusion that the internet is given to the common sense rules that parents teach their kids. 'Don't talk to strangers' was always a big one when I was growing up. Somewhere along the way, I guess someone added 'except on the internet' in invisible ink.

    Most of us are tired of our government trying to pass laws that attempt to legislate parenting. If you don't want your kids talking to strangers in chat rooms, the solution is educating them and enforcing the rules that parents are supposed to establish.

     

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  8.  
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    Patrick Murphy, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 7:18am

    Re: Nah - the Gen X parents had a meeting and deci

    Easy, there. History is rife with examples of generations past shirking their parenting duties. Not for nothing, but you think AIDS became a world-wide epidemic because parents in the 70s and 80s were talking frankly with their children about sex, STDs, etc.? It's not a Gen X problem. It's a human problem that will be passed down in perpetuity.

     

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  9.  
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    Orga, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 7:26am

    Re: Does Techdirt ever say anything constructive?

    Techdirt says plenty of constructive things. The reason all efforts to reign in sexual predators are counterproductive is because they're half-assed, based on faulty logic, and not grounded in reality. Why would you want laws passed on stupidity like that?

     

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  10.  
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    dorpus, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 7:31am

    So what should people do instead? It seems that in the techdirt universe, all lawsuits against sexual predators are "frivolous", and any action by law enforcement against sexual predators is "big brother". The comments just show a lot of grandstanding against the status quo, as opposed to proposing specific courses of action.

     

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  11.  
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    DanC, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 8:29am

    Re:

    "The comments just show a lot of grandstanding against the status quo, as opposed to proposing specific courses of action."

    I thought the "specific courses of action" was fairly self-evident:

    1. Stop blaming technology for social problems. It's the people abusing the technology who are breaking the law.

    2. Stop trying to legislate parenting. It is not the government's job to make sure that your values are instilled in your kids.

    3. If you want laws passed to help stop sexual predators, base them on reliable studies and facts instead of unsupported opinions and hunches.

    4. Educate your kids and enforce the household rules.

    5. Try parenting. Don't throw your kids in front of the tv or computer and forget about them.

    I'm not sure how you qualify the statements as grandstanding when in reality they're a call for common sense. Why is it grandstanding to suggest we not pass laws based on false assumptions?

     

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  12.  
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    Strega, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 8:31am

    Re: Does Techdirt ever say anything constructive?

    There's a common misunderstanding at work, here. That misunderstanding is that the "government" - by which most people mean legislature and law enforcement - are capable of preventing crime from happening.

    News flash - that's not possible. The governmental agencies that deal with crime, safety, etc., are punitive, not preventative. Passing a law to "protect children" is fallacious from the very start; laws don't protect children. People do.

    The government's role is to *punish* people who break laws. The *parents'* role is to instill in their children the knowledge and behaviors that allow them to protect *themselves*.

     

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  13.  
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    OneDisciple, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 8:40am

    Re:

    Dorpus,
    Are you playing devils advocate again. You must know that what is being said here is that we as grow adults (parents) must learn to take responsibility for our actions and teach our children. Throughout history every society that has allowed the government to run their lives has failed. We do not want America to be the next. As a people we need to stand up and say enough is enough. We want our freedom! If my child needs a spanking than a spanking is what he/she will get, because I love them to much to allow them to grow up without discipline.
    P.S. Why do you read on a web site that so offends your sensibilities?

     

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  14.  
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    Annonymous Predator, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:20am

    My two cents... (LONG VERSION)

    Kids know more than any adult about a little thing called MANIPULATION! They use it from the time they're BORN!!! "IF I CRY ENOUGH, I KNOW SHE'LL GET IT FOR ME" - That was a direct quoute from 20/20 report sometime - BEFORE NANNY 911! This kid didn't even say - MOMMIE or DADDY would get it for me! SHE!

    That said... ADULTS are the ones that have to PROTECT themselves! These little creatures or as some call them, "Blessings from God" LIE ABOUT THEIR AGE! While a sex offender is BANNED from going on ANY social group! Guess what - for the people out there who think that's good... From the moment you start chatting with someone online - and she declares that she is 20 years old - and it turns out that she is ACTUALLY 13 - YOU ARE NOW OFFICIALLY A PREDATOR !!! As PER, THE LETTER OF THE LAW!!! Why? Because - IT HAPPENED ONLINE... AND SOMEHOW - YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT IT WAS A "HELPLESS" CHILD - THAT YOU ARE TALKING TO!!!

    This hits me on a personal level... I am a victim of someone who was lied to - and labeled... All because some helpless WHORE wanted to get laid! In my case - I actually talked to the girl's MOTHER! I told her - I was tired because I had DRIVEN from NYS, where I worked, SECURITY - to (Almost) PITTSBURGH! The mom said, I know my girl will be ok with you - and I hope that sometime we can meet... To which I agreed!
    I didn't know this women from ANYWHERE - this was the FIRST and ONLY conversation I ever had with her... As it turned out - "HELPLESS" "INNOCENT" GIRL - had - MANIPULATED her mom into believing that I WAS SOMEONE ELSE - BY THE SAME NAME!!!

    I GOT THROWN IN JAIL(1 YEAR) - I AM LABELED FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE! I'm stuck within the confines of the 5 boroughs - NOT TO LEAVE until Probation is over (5 years) - I have to attend classes for "Sexual Predators" - I have to meet with Probation EVERY WEEK! I CANT KEEP A JOB - BECAUSE - IT IS THERE - IF I DO GET A JOB - I HAVE TO BE EXCUSED TWICE A WEEK - EVERY WEEK! WHICH USUALLY - GETS ME FIRED!

    AND FOR WHAT??? A story that we have ALL HEARD - TIME AND TIME AGAIN!!! GIRL LIED ABOUT HER AGE - SO and SO - GOT BUSTED WITH A GIRL THAT LIED ABOUT HER AGE!!! The detective asked me how this all happened... When I told him everything... HE ACTUALLY SAID - DID I CHECK HER ID... MY PAID LAWYER SAID... YOU ARE THE ADULT - AS FAR AS LAW GOES - YOU SHOULD OF CHECKED HER ID!!!

    Now - I WONT DATE ANYONE - I MEET ONLY WITH PEOPLE THAT I HAVE KNOWN FOR YEARS!!! Because another plus of the label... IF something should happen that involves someone else - say, "an altercation" on ANY level... I am AUTOMATICALLY WRONG!

    I AM NO LONGER A MAN...

    HERE IS MY IDEA ON HOW TO FIX THIS PROBLEM...

    ONE SIMPLE LAW THAT SHOULD BE MANDATORY! COMPUTER IS TO BE PLACED IN THE LIVING ROOM - WHERE EVERYONE CAN SEE WHAT "HELPLESS" ONE IS DOING - ONLINE! IF YOUR HELPLESS ONE - FALLS VICTIM TO SOME CRAP ONLINE... ARREST THE PARENTS!!! BLATANT NEGLIGENCE & ENDANGERING THE WELFARE OF A CHILD!

    END OF STORY!

     

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  15.  
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    Annonymous Predator, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:20am

    My two cents... (SHORT VERSION)

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Annonymous Predator, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:21am

    My two cents... (SHORT VERSION)

    HERE IS MY IDEA ON HOW TO FIX THIS PROBLEM...

    ONE SIMPLE LAW THAT SHOULD BE MANDATORY! COMPUTER IS TO BE PLACED IN THE LIVING ROOM - WHERE EVERYONE CAN SEE WHAT "HELPLESS" ONE IS DOING - ONLINE! IF YOUR HELPLESS ONE - FALLS VICTIM TO SOME CRAP ONLINE... ARREST THE PARENTS!!! BLATANT NEGLIGENCE & ENDANGERING THE WELFARE OF A CHILD!

    END OF STORY!

     

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  17.  
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    Hudey, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:30am

    There's a reason for this...

    To Catch a Predator! The Dateline show has struck fear into the predator community and they're no longer taking chances that the girl they're trying to coerce is a plant by the show. I think education is the best idea there is for this issue. Parents today don't do it, so get it into the schools.

     

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  18.  
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    nipseyrussell, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:30am

    hERe is MY IdEA ONHOWTOFIX this PROBLEM:
    confiscate this idiot's computer

     

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  19.  
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    nipseyrussell, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:31am

    END OF STORY

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    nipseyrussell, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:32am

    wait not end of story. new idea:
    ONE SIMPLE LAW THAT SHOULD BE MANDATORY! COMPUTER IS TO BE PLACED IN MY LIVING ROOM. WHERE I CAN WATCH THE CUTE LITTLE KIDDIES USE IT. SAFETY IS JOB ONE

    rolls eyes and adjusts tin foil hat accordingly

     

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  21.  
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    dorpus, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:39am

    Re: Re:

    So, are murderers the product of poor parenting also? How do you stop murderers, other than vague appeals to "common sense", "stop legislating parenting", or "base them on reliable studies"?

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Annonymous Predator, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:46am

    Re: There's a reason for this...

    I agree... Get it into the schools... Look you want to be a little whore... You will screw-up someone's life! If you want to be a little whore - do it with someone your own age! This way no one gets in trouble!

    For Adults... Don't be ignorant... IT HAPPENED TO ME - IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU! I WAS ONLINE BEFORE AOL - And yet sometime after CompuServ (About 25 years - with a dial-up modem that was 300 Baud Rate on a Commodore 64...)Social groups were few - and LOCAL... We all hear about people going out with young girl thinking that they were older - and getting busted! Yet, when this tramp lied about her age... I FELL FOR IT!

    I bet she's still whoring around... Meanwhile, I'm scared for LIFE!!!

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Annonymous Predator, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:50am

    Re:

    Dude... WTF!

    Are you talking about keeping an eye on your Cute Little Kiddie using it??? I'm not sure if that was intentional - but - WTF! YOUR KID(s)!!!

    You know what... DO IT! At least this way - you can be the only one to screw your kid... Instead of your kid screwing with someone else.

     

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  24.  
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    Anthony Cimaglia, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 10:23am

    Oh it's Very Real. We have Proof!

    My girlfriend did a case study in college and won an award. Basically they set up a "teenage girl" on myspace and a lot of wierdo's where talking to her. One even set up a meeting but they did not go. They where not dateline but this man was very sick. This is the project they made. it s short film that is based on a true story. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmG0Lk22ZTk

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 10:41am

    You want to fix this problem? You put a bullet in the head of anyone that is screwing kids. Many bullets. Until they are dead.

    That prevents crime. It prevents that pervert from ever doing it again.

     

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  26.  
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    DanC, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Re:

    How do you stop murderers, other than vague appeals to "common sense", "stop legislating parenting", or "base them on reliable studies"? You don't, because you can't. You can pass laws that help impede a murderer from accomplishing his goals, but you can't stop everyone. And some of those laws are inherently flawed as well. Take, for instance, the Gun-Free School Zone act. While it provides a penalty for someone found with a handgun in a school zone, it also ensures that law-abiding citizens are defenseless when a school shooting occurs. Murderers don't care about laws that stop them from killing. And to answer your sarcastically posed question: yes, some murderers are the products of poor parenting, or lack of parenting. That's why the automatic first response to early school shootings was to blame video games for desensitizing the kids. Sure some people asked how the parents could not know their kids had purchased handguns months beforehand or had assembled pipe bombs in the basement, but the immediate outrage was against video games. Your responses to these posts seem to indicate that you favor the "throw it against the wall and see what sticks" method of legislating. Pass as much legislation as possible, and hope something works. If you're going to play devil's advocate, could you at least put a little effort into it? Referring to all my points as "vague appeals" is fairly pathetic, and makes you look silly.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    DanC, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 11:00am

    Re: Re: Re:

    How do you stop murderers, other than vague appeals to "common sense", "stop legislating parenting", or "base them on reliable studies"?

    You don't, because you can't. You can pass laws that help impede a murderer from accomplishing his goals, but you can't stop everyone. And some of those laws are inherently flawed as well.

    Take, for instance, the Gun-Free School Zone act. While it provides a penalty for someone found with a handgun in a school zone, it also ensures that law-abiding citizens are defenseless when a school shooting occurs. Murderers don't care about laws that stop them from killing.

    And to answer your sarcastically posed question: yes, some murderers are the products of poor parenting, or lack of parenting. That's why the automatic first response to early school shootings was to blame video games for desensitizing the kids. Sure some people asked how the parents could not know their kids had purchased handguns months beforehand or had assembled pipe bombs in the basement, but the immediate outrage was against video games.

    Your responses to these posts seem to indicate that you favor the "throw it against the wall and see what sticks" method of legislating, regardless of their merit. Pass as much legislation as possible, and hope something works.

    If you're going to try and play devil's advocate, could you at least put a little effort into it? Referring to all my points as "vague appeals" is fairly pathetic, and makes you look silly.

     

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  28.  
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    Alimas, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 11:46am

    Re: Re: Nah - the Gen X parents had a meeting and

    Amen.

     

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  29.  
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    Alimas, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 11:59am

    Re: Does Techdirt ever say anything constructive?

    Strega nailed it perfectly.

    You can't prevent accidents/maliciousness or any other natural part of the human social group experience.
    But you can punish bad behavior and educate the public about risks.

    But the decision about whether or not to take a risk, including being dumb enough to put your real name on a social networking site, is solely for you to gauge and make.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 12:38pm

    The shooter from the Virginia Tech. murders and the Northern Ill. murders had one thing in common. They bought their guns from the same Internet gun dealer.

    It is insane that we allow guns to be sold over the Internet. Sure, maybe they would have gotten guns from someplace else, but lets at least make wack jobs work for it, huh?

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 12:57pm

    Laws can and do prevent crime. The death penalty is pretty good at reducing repeat offenders from committing additional crimes.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    DanC, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 1:02pm

    Re:

    Actually the real problem in the Virginia Tech murders was that the state of Virginia had a loophole that did not apparently require them to transmit the shooter's legal status of being mentally unsound to the national database. It was the fault in a state law that allowed the killer to receive handguns, not the gun dealer's.

    "It is insane that we allow guns to be sold over the Internet"

    Why? Either in-store or online purchase requires a background check, and there is no evidence that the gun dealer acted improperly in either case.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Etch, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 1:18pm

    Re: Re: Does Techdirt ever say anything constructi

    Its sad how little time parents spend with their kids these days. But who can blame them? I don't have kids yet, but the moment I get home from work I'm so exhausted that I turn off my Blackberry, lock myself in my room to get some peace and quiet, and forget about my day at work! If I had kids, the easiest thing for me to do is turn on the TV to distract them and go into my room and pass out.

    But then I reserve no right to blame anyone else for my kids growing up not prepared to face the real world.

    All you have to be is a good role model at home, so your kids don't go looking for Role Models in "50 Cent" and "Paris Hilton".

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 1:49pm

    I spend a lot of time with my kids. I coach them (2 teams, 3 different sports) I read with them, I play with them and talk with them.

    For those of you that don't understand, you have parents influence and you have peer pressure. Also, sometimes kids do stupid things (I know I did)

    Whats that all mean? Do I expect my kids to be perfect? Do I expect them to never do something stupid? Of course not, but why as a society would we want to make it easy for others to harm them?

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    DanC, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 2:03pm

    Re:

    Laws can and do prevent crime.



    Some laws prevent crime, some don't, and some even facilitate it. What's your point?

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    DanC, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 2:08pm

    Re:

    Of course not, but why as a society would we want to make it easy for others to harm them?

    Who said anything about making it easy for others to harm kids? All I'm arguing against is knee-jerk legislation that relies on assumptions based on faulty logic and opinion rather than studies and facts.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 2:11pm

    People under 30 can not be trusted ! Talking to them at all is a risk to personal safety and mental health.

    So use basic online smarts. If you encounter someone under 30...end all conversation and back slowly away...

    END OF STORY

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Oh it's Very Real. We have Proof!

    So you are saying that most of the guys caught for perving online are entrapped by woman on perv hunting expeditions ?

    Scary that !

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Kjell, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 3:39pm

    Re:

    Every new law creates a new class of criminal.

    As for the death penalty, it doesn't seem to do much to reduce overall crime.

    What reduces crime is Education, it's amazing how people don't see how investing in good, solid education pays for itself by reducing crime, not to mention through a host of other benefits.

    Also, the average US worker works more hours than just about any civilized nation except Japan. If you want to talk family values, give people TIME to be with their families, and make sure they're not so mentally and emotionally exhausted from work that they just feel like parking their kids in front of the TV.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Annonymous Predator, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 6:24pm

    Re:

    Shooter... Now here is my idea on how to handle - the "Mentally Instable" that kill people and go on killing sprees... Since these cowards ultimately kill themselves... And all we're left with is a lot of people emotionally distraught - with no where to turn to for comfort... Not like we can dig up the scumbag that killed everyone and then himself... So, we put a spotlight on everyone that person knew... Oh - You KNEW something was not right with that person? All of a sudden had an sudden joy in guns? RED FLAG!!!

    If you know someone is mentally unstable - and has a gun - and you don't say anything... YOU WILL PAY!!! YOU WILL GOTO JAIL - as an accomplice - and - Neglect...

    There goes a new spin on the New York Slogan "If you see something Say Something" If you see something say something - OR ELSE - GOTO JAIL FOR NEGLECT AND BEING AN Accessory for murder - make these things a Class D Felony! Force these people to pay restitution - for crimes which could have been avoided!

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    ZMan, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 11:44am

    Sex Offender Issues

    This is to instill fear into everyone, so they can eventually monitor us all in the name of security and protecting the children.

    "The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation." - Adolph Hitler (Mein Kampf)

     

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