Using fresh news stories can be a great way for parents to spark discussions with their kids and teens about how to be a good cyber citizen. “Table Talk” is a series on Breaking Free, passing along recent headlines about Internet temptations and dangers. Use the questions provided to get your family thinking about Internet safety and responsibility.
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Predator’s Playground – Man gets 20 years for seducing a girl half his age on MySpace
At the beginning of this month, Michael Begin (33) from northwestern Pennsylvania was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for trying to seduce a 14-year-old girl he met on the MySpace. He tried to send her pornographic material and convince her to have sex with him, and was unaware that her mom saw these messages. She contacted the FBI, and authorities used the girl’s MySpace account to keep in touch with Begin. Begin arranged to meet the girl at a restaurant and was surprised instead to find federal agents.
Online sexual predation is a cause for great concern among parents today. And while MySpace has waned in popularity among youth, men still use the site as a way to connect with and seduce young people.
There are several notable cases in the last year alone:
- Ivan Lopez (23) used MySpace to build his friendship with a 13-year-old girl, whom he later convinced to travel with him to Las Vegas to “consummate” their relationship. He is now sentenced to seven years in federal prison.
- Richard Sabatasse (27) pled no contest to charges involving his kidnapping and rape of a 14-year-old girl he met on MySpace. He was sentenced to 10 years.
- Jason Ara Erpinar (22) used MySpace to hook up with two young women (18 and 22), whom he took out on dates, got them drunk, and raped them. He was sentenced to 15 years in state prison.
- Michael Maculuso (38) used MySpace and Facebook to masquerade as a teenage girl or guy in order to convince teenage boys to send him explicit photos or videos of themselves. He was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.
Headline after headline, the picture of sexual predation online is not a one-size-fits-all story. Most known predator cases are not classic innocent-child-meets-kidnapper tales. Experts say the teens most vulnerable to sexual predation are those who are willing to talk about sex online.
For a rundown of predation scenarios, read “Internet Predators 101.”
- Do any of your friends regularly befriend people online they don’t know in “real life”?
- Do any of your friends have digital photos or videos that could be used by someone to embarrass or even coerce them later on?
- Is there pressure among your peers to portray a sexy image online?