Monday, June 19, 2006

Every parent's nightmare

By now you have read about the 16-year old girl from Michigan who was on her way to Jericho to marry a man she met on MySpace. She was an honor student, a "good girl" who somehow managed to convince her parents to get her a passport (she said she wanted to go to neighboring Canada to see a friend -- so much for the beefing of security post 9/11 making her life SAFER: before 9/11 passports were not needed to get to Canada...). Then she snuck out of her house and boarded a plane to meet her future husband.

Yup -- husband. Apparently the 21-year-old native of the West Bank and the Michigan girl were going to get married after she was to williningly converted to Islam and signed a marriage contract.

This story is about as prototypical (possibly stereotypical) when it comes to explaining parent fears about MySpace as any story can be. The girl in question was not really considered a "trouble-maker" and yet she boarded a plane for a war-ridden region to marry someone 5 years old who she had never met face to face without her family knowing can make anyone believe it could happen to their child.

But could it have been avoided? Possibly. The parents could have been a little more inquisitive about the trip to Canada -- where exactly was she going? Who would she be staying with? Her lies could have unraveled at that point. Adults can also check in with their children about their friends and who they are talking to and spending most of their time with. Given that she wanted to marry this guy, I am going to assume that they had interacted extensively online. Would his name ever come up if asked? Maybe, maybe not.

Meanwhile, the scorned husband-to-be is heartbroken on the other side of the world. He resents being labeled a predator and really believed that he had truly found love online. His parents knew about his relationship with the American girl and were supportive of the union.

The girl turns 17 this week, which means she is a year away from being able to unite with this young man without anyone being able to stop her legally. Will they still be together then? Probably not, as I would imagine that many precautions are being taken to keep them apart. But the internet is a place where one can create many identities and have many contact sources. If the two really do love each other, they can wait a year and become a true modern-day Romeo and Juliet.

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