Dateline NBC has had an ongoing series of reports where they trap sexual predators searching the Internet and targeting underage teens for sex. When I saw the highlights from the third installment of the "To Catch a Predator" series, I had several questions.
My first question is for the parents of computer literate teenagers. Are you aware of this problem? I have met so many parents who treat their computer illiteracy as something to be proud of:
"Oh, Jenny is on that computer all the time. Me, I donâ€™t know how to turn the thing on."
Guess what? Jenny is making a date with a guy whose online photo looks like Brad Pitt, but who, in reality, looks like Larry The Cable Guy. Whether you mask your computer illiteracy as an excuse, saying that you are too old to learn how to use a computer or that you donâ€™t want to be a slave to technology, YOU ARE WRONG.
There are parental control programs designed to help you with this task, but since most parents canâ€™t master the V-chip, how can I expect you to access these parental control programs on your browser? More importantly, do you know what your kids are doing online or are you in denial about that?
My second question is for small town America: Are you in denial, too? The same way parents say, "Not my child," community leaders say, "Not in our town." If you think that this is a big city problem, YOU ARE WRONG. When Dateline aired "To Catch a Predator IV", the sting was set up in Greenville, Ohio. Even in small-town America vulnerable young teens are not far from danger. These predators were willing to drive for hours (sometimes even crossing state lines) to have sex with a thirteen-year-old girl — your thirteen-year-old girl. It's time to get off your moral high ground and face reality.
My third question is for media watchdog groups like the Parents Television Council. Why are you not giving any credit to Dateline for doing this series of reports? I thought your organization was dedicated to protecting our children. You have people watch hours of primetime television and inventory swear words, sexual content, violence, disrespect for authority, and other negative content. Then the data goes into your "Entertainment Tracking System." You criticize a dramatic show that features sexual predators going after kids online like Crossing Jordan or Law and Order SVU, and place them on your Worst Show of the Week list.