It was the third installment of a show that illustrates a growing and horrific epidemic in the U.S.—grown men, trolling the web searching for minors in hopes of engaging in sex.
To expose them, “Dateline” set up multiple hidden cameras in a house in Riverside, California. The show enlisted the help of volunteers from Perverted-Justice, a watchdog group that regularly catches online predators by posing as kids online. They were assisted by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Over a three-day period, Perverted Justice volunteers accepted invitations from dozens of men who set up liaisons with what they thought were minors who would be home alone. But when each man arrived at the Riverside house, instead of finding the 12- or 13-year-old he thought lived there, he met up with correspondent Chris Hansen.
By the end of the three-day sting, 50 men of all ages had been arrested. Their names, faces—and in some cases their long criminal records—were shown to millions of viewers. You can read more about it, including the entire transcript.
NBC promises to keep reporting on this crime, which means lots of opportunities to use this story as a springboard to publicize your related cause or issue:
—Child advocacy groups can weigh in with commentary about the problem, from light sentences for offenders, to parents who are unaware of what their children are doing on the Internet.
—In Hartford, Connecticut, police are investigating whether as many as seven teenage girls have been assaulted by men they met through MySpace.com, a popular social networking website that allows users to create profiles that can include personal information, cell phone numbers and even photos of them scanitly-dressed or worse. Internet experts familar with MySpace.com can advise parents on how to check these kinds of websites to see if their own children have profiles.
—This the time for computer experts and other techies to let parents know about safeguards such as programs that filter, block and monitor Internet use.
—At what age should children be warned about these types of predators?
—What kinds of minors are most susceptible to being victims?
—Do you think people in your state should be alerted when a predator moves into the neighborhood?
—What are the schools doing, if anything, to keep children safe?
—Should parents snoop in their children’s rooms, pockets, backpacks and drawers? Or does this erode the trust between parent and child?
I’d be interested in hearing how you or your group generated publicity related to this show.