The internet can be a dangerous place for unsuspecting teenagers. Especially if they encounter sex offenders who want to prey on them by using the anonymity of the web.
Simon Hale exploited the naivety of his victims by impersonating two teen idols Justin Bieber and Niall Horan from pop group One Direction. Hale would befriend the girls online and gain their trust by convincing them that they were speaking to Bieber or Horan via internet chat programs. In actual fact, the girls were speaking to Hale.
Indecent acts and blackmail
Thrity-seven-year-old Hale persuaded thirty-three girls between the ages of thirteen to fifteen to strip and pose nude for him on their webcams. The girls were from Britain, Australia and Denmark – some were tricked into posing naked or topless for Hale, and he also blackmailed teen Bieber and One Direction fans into performing indecent acts over Skype.
Hale hacked into the young girls’ computers, after which he recorded and blackmailed some of them into committing on-camera sex acts for him. In another disturbing development, it is reported that two girls were coerced into performing or miming sexual acts on their young family members — a 4-year old brother and a 6-year old cousin.
When police arrested Hale, they found thirty-five Skype accounts and more than one hundred and eighty videos of young girls stored on his computer,
Internet safety and your child
The internet is an indispensable part of our lives but there are dangers when surfing the web. It is still important for parents to teach kids about internet safety and responsibility.
The internet lets people hide behind a cloak of anonymity. A person online may say he is a fifteen-year-old boy, but could really be a 60-year-old man. Hence it is very dangerous if your child agrees to meet face-to-face with someone they have met over the Internet.
As most parents now did not grow up with internet access, they may not be aware of how easily unscrupulous people can take online advantage of children.
Four tips for internet safety:
1. Young children should not have unlimited access to computers (and webcams) unsupervised.
2. Tell your children never to give out personal information (such as name, address, phone numbers and photos) to strangers online.
3. Warn children not to meet in person someone they have met online.
4. Advise your children that if it sounds too good to be true (such as a person saying they are a celebrity online) then it is very likely to be false.