A couple of weeks ago, Regina Lynn's Sex Drive Column from Wired Magazine put a new spin on online predators -- that, in some perverse way, there could be a benefit to them.
Of course no one is saying that online solicitation is a good thing. But Lynn argues that all the coverage and publicity online predators are getting can be turned into teachable moments by the media and parents. That watching Dateline and visiting Perverted Justice can alert children to the strategies of online predators and also show them that this sort of behavior from adults is NOT OK. That these people really are bad guys who deserve to be confronted.
She also says that sex offenders, by going online to find their victims, are actually making it easier for us to understand their tactics and motives. My favorite quote:
"If we acknowledge that the internet did not create sexual abuse any more than freeways created reckless drivers, we might be able to analyze better why some adults continue to seek sexual contact with minors -- even now that we have the transcripts."
Although Lynn ends her column by saying that it would be fitting if the internet actually helped put an end to sexual abuse, I am not as optimistic. As she does state, the vast majority of sexual abuse takes place within families or among acquaintences. For the most part, the cases (at least those we are aware of) are strangers reaching out. Are there patterns? Perhaps, but it remains to be seen.
In the meantime, putting stranger solicitation into perspective is still the educated way to go.