Posted: Jan 27, 2011 2:46 PM by Irina Cates (KPAX News)
Updated: Jan 27, 2011 8:39 PM
MISSOULA - Missoula police say that social networking sites are providing sex predators an opportunity to exploit children online.
One recent case saw a Missoula man appear in federal court to face accusations of luring a 12-year-old Wyoming girl to Missoula on MySpace.
FBI officials said that once the girl was in Missoula the man took her to his home, got her high on marijuana and rapped her repeatedly for several days.
Missoula Police Detective Chris Shermer says child exploitation cases involving social networking sites happen all the time.
"We've had some incidents thought MySpace where somebody would, some guy would make contact with an individual and say hey, 'do you want to...' you know kind of thing. It's more often than not that we're getting those," Shermer told us.
Shermer stated that both MySpace and Facebook have the same problems when it comes to sex predators contacting children and teenagers online.
Another issue is that some children are now going to MySpace as a way to keep their parents from finding out what they're doing.
"The kids are a little more scared because their parents want to befriend them on their own Facebook page. So, I think MySpace is a little harder to kind of maneuver for parents," Shermer explained.
Shermer says some kids also spend time in chat rooms such as Yahoo which are also dangerous because many of the conversations are about sex.
"When you have a 14-year-old out there in a chat room, their immediately going to be asking about if they're a virgin, if they ever had sex before or you know, do you have a boyfriend? And then you're going to start to get into where do you go to school? Who are your friends? And that's pretty dangerous," Shermer said.
Police recommend that computers should be out in the open at home and that parents need to learn these social networking sites to be able to protect their children.
"I think what's also important is treat the computer as if it was a car. It's a privilege to drive our car in this family, well it's also a privilege to use our computer, because it's an expensive item in our household," commented Shermer.
While police have nabbed some online sex predators, Shermer says they people are hard to track on the Internet, so sometimes they may not find the predator until the predator finds access to a child.