Dear Parents,

I'll start off by saying I'm not a parent and my niece and nephew's usage of the internet is mostly Blippi.

That being said I was a teen as social media was quickly growing and chat rooms were the place to be. Looking back I am horrified at the conversations I had with strangers and anyone in my family would tell you I had a good head on my shoulders.

I distinctly remember talking to someone in one chat room that said they worked for Ford Models, a modeling agency out of New York. They even provided a phone number so I could verify them. They were trying to get me to send them photos. I was just a young teen at the time.

The internet has exploded since then. The digital world moves insanely fast and predators are out there and smarter than you think.

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Recently five teen girls in Maine have gone missing. Four have been found. WGME reports that internet predators are to blame in many of these situations. A 23-year-old has been charged with intentional cruelty toward a child after a 15-year-old from Lewiston was found with him.

A 17-year-old from Bath was found with a 27-year-old in New York that she met online.

These predators know exactly what to look for such as girls with an unstable home environment or living in group homes.

Teens are online more often than ever for social life and school. With in-person socialization so limited due to the pandemic, these teens are looking for human connection and predators take advantage of the vulnerability.

I'm sure I'll lose points with the teens with this, but parents, limit and monitor screen time. Be active in their lives and educate them on the dangerous people that are out there.

-B

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